Valentina Shevchenko, UFC’s longest-reigning champion, shares her simple trick to prevent burnout
It’s extremely difficult to win a UFC championship and there have been many great fighters over the years who have failed to do so. However, it’s hard to appreciate just how difficult it is to win and then hold on to a UFC belt.
The UFC has 12 divisions, eight men’s and four women’s. Let’s take the women’s featherweight division out of this argument, as the UFC rarely hosts women’s 145-pound fights of any type these days, and look at the other 11. In this scenario, there are eight divisions that either have a champion vacancy (heavyweight) or where the champion held the belt for less than a year.
Jon Jones and Cyril Gein will fight for the vacant heavyweight title on Saturday in the main event of UFC 285 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Brandon Moreno captured the flyweight title in January, rising from the interim title when he defeated Deiveson Figueireda. Lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, welterweight champion Leon Edwards, middleweight champion Alex Pereira, light heavyweight champion Jamahal Hill, women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunez and welterweight champion Zhang Weili have won their titles over the past year.
Of this group, only Makhachev has successfully defended the title during his current reign.
And then, of course, there’s flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko, who is the longest-serving UFC champion and has made seven successful title defenses since she first won it against Joanna Jedrzejczyk on December 8, 2018 at UFC 231 in Toronto.
Shevchenko will head to her eighth consecutive successful title defense three days before she turns 35 on Saturday in the co-main event when she puts the belt on the line against Alexa Grasso. Shevchenko entered the UFC in 2015 at 11-1 bantamweight, although she was physically much smaller than anyone she’d ever met.
At that time, the UFC did not have a women’s flyweight division, so Shevchenko moved up the class. She went 3-2 at bantamweight, which is not the most impressive result, if you don’t dig deeper. Four of her five fights at 135 pounds in the UFC were against former UFC champions: two against Nunes and one each against Holly Holm and Julianne Peña. The fifth was against Sarah Kaufmann, a former Strikeforce champion.
Her losses to Nunes were close, most notably in a rematch in Edmonton on September 9, 2017 at UFC 215.
Ever since the UFC created the flyweight division, Shevchenko has led 9-0 and completely dominated. Only in her last fight against Tayla Santos at UFC 275 in Singapore in June did she even show a hint of vulnerability.
She won a disputed split decision over Santos. Shevchenko said she was “comfortable” against Santos despite many fighters doubting her win.
Shevchenko says she didn’t take Santos lightly, she’s ready for the best Grasso the world has ever seen and still believes she’s on the rise.
Ever since she convincingly introduced former world champion Jessica Andrade, Erin Blanchfield has been speaking out about Shevchenko and doing her best to make sure she deserves her next title shot.
However, Shevchenko is reserved about Blanchfield, even though Blanchfield has spoken so much about her. If she wins on Saturday, she will tie Jon Jones in fourth place with eight consecutive title defenses, behind only Demetrius Johnson (11), Anderson Silva (10) and Georges St-Pierre (9). She has such a sense of purpose that she refuses to even consider such an achievement.
“I never want to start thinking about what’s going to happen because then you start losing sight of your [upcoming fight] and think about what could happen, and when you do, there’s a good chance things will go wrong,” she told Sportzshala Sports. “In my 30 years of martial arts experience, I have learned that it is important to focus on just one thing. what’s going on in the ring [in my next fight]. As soon as you start planning or dreaming about anything other than winning a fight, you lose sight of what you are focused on. Thinking about who I can fight next, or what record or achievement I will get, is a way to distract you, and it’s not good for a fighter.”
The danger is that this leads to burnout. Champions are regularly fed the best opponents available, and such close attention to each opponent becomes work in itself. That’s why so many NFL coaches burn themselves out by forcing themselves to work 18-20 hour days in pursuit of a championship.
Shevchenko laughs at the idea that she is vulnerable to this. She speaks several languages and is fluent in Russian, Spanish and English and is learning to speak Thai. She is an avid traveler, enjoys shooting guns at the shooting range, and loves to go boating.
She will think about how to learn to fly, as her older sister Antonina did.
Life is an adventure to be discovered, and when she’s out of camp, Shevchenko loves to travel the world in search of fun, adventure, and education.
“It’s simple [to keep my focus on my fights] because I have so many things that I love to do,” she said. – When it comes time to work, I’m all at work. But there are other things that I love to do. I have many interests outside of training. I like to travel. I always want to see something new and feel the beauty of this world. I love going to the shooting range and driving my boat. I have many, many interests, and so when you switch from one to another, you are always refreshed and excited to do what you are going to take on.
“So when I get back and it’s time to train, I love it and I’m really looking forward to it and I’m excited because martial arts has been a part of my life for so long. That way, I know I can dedicate myself fully to my work and give it my all.”[performance}”[performance}”