Khabib Nurmagomedov and Valentina Shevchenko definitely do not agree on everything, but they do see one thing the same way. They do not buy into the notion that their opponents were defeated when they entered the Octagon. After the fights began, however, is quite a different story.
In a 2019 ESPN interview, Khabib was asked about his opponents’ level of belief when they step into the Eagle’s cage. Here is what the undefeated Dagestani had to say in response:
“I think they believe, too. Because these guys, one of the best in the world. They have to believe. Why you come to fight if you don’t believe yourself? I think they believe, too. But after first round, I think they not believe when I catch these guys.”
Khabib barely lost a round during his perfect 29-0 career. When you go back and watch the manner in which he dominated most fights from bell to bell, it’s difficult to argue with Khabib’s assessment of his victims’ psyche.
Valentina Shevchenko has been equally as dominant during her UFC flyweight championship run as Khabib was in his career. She, too, has barely lost a round during this reign of terror. Like Khabib, she doesn’t attribute her dominance to pre-defeated opponents but rather deflated ones after they’ve become aware of what they’re up against.
“They’re not coming already broken for the fight,” Shevchenko said at the UFC 266 post-fight press conference. “When (the fight starts), the break is when their strategy for the fight doesn’t work. If they have like, ‘OK, I was thinking that I can do that,’ and they’re starting to realize it’s not happening—and I play my game.
They wanted to play their game, but it’s not happening. I just play my game. And this is when the break starts, the breakage. So it’s not before the fight; it’s during the fight, in the first seconds of the fight.”
Valentina Shevchenko’s last “broken” opponent was Lauren Murphy at UFC 266. This TKO victory for “The Bullet” made for her sixth successful title defense. Perhaps the most notable difference between these two dominators is the fact that Khabib’s spirit-breaking days are over while Shevchenko’s says hers are only just beginning.