This weekend, in the co-main event of UFC 247, UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko defends her belt for the third time. Her opponent is Katlyn Chookagian, who earned the title shot after back-to-back wins over Joanne Calderwood and Jennifer Maia.
Shevchenko became a champion after beating Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant belt in 2018. She has since defended the belt versus Jessica Eye (via highlight reel KO) and Liz Carmouche.
Ahead of her next attempted title defense the Kyrgzstani-Peruvian fighter spoke with Damon Martin of MMA Fighting about which fighters are worthy of challenging her. Specifically, ‘Bullet’ was asked about the candidacy of UFC strawweight champion Zhang Weili; who had previously stated her interest in facing off with Shevchenko.
“Inside the 125 [division], I agree to fight with anyone who goes all the way to the top, gets their position and [is] ready for the fight, ready for the title. I accept anyone,” said Shevchenko. “But you know, for example, in this situation with a different weight class it’s not just like this — I accept it, I take it. I think that the person who tries to get this fight has to show and prove she’s deserving this opportunity.”
Zhang had spoken of a potential fight with Shevchanko on the heels of her stunning victory over Jessica Andrade at UFC Shenzhen last August. She defeated the then-115 lb champion Andrade via a 42 second TKO. That win was Zhang’s 20th win in a row (her only defeat was in her professional debut back in 2013).
Since those comments Zhang has been matched opposite Jedrzejczyk — a former UFC strawweight champion — for UFC 248.
Shevchenko expressed that she didn’t believe Zhang warranted a fight with her any time soon.
“A few months ago nobody knew the name of the Chinese girl Weili. I don’t know what number she was, but because of lucky circumstances she became champion, but she still has to prove that she is in the right place and she’s there because no one is better than her.”
Shevchenko added that she felt Zhang had a very difficult task ahead of her in the form of Jedrzejczyk. Shevchenko also mentioned Rose Namajunas and Tatiana Suarez as potential obstacles for Zhang to overcome before she could consider challenging for the 125 lb crown.
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