UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion Carla Esparza believes a considerable amount of fear would be injected into the 115-pound division if flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko made the drop down.
Shevchenko has ruled over the 125-pound landscape since 2018, successfully defending the title seven times and clearing out most of her competition in the division. With that in mind, many have pondered potential ventures that “Bullet” could undertake beyond her natural weight.
While a bantamweight move for either a trilogy with Amanda Nunes or a rematch with Julianna Peña has appeared to pique her interest, Shevchenko has also somewhat left the door open to going in the other direction.
Prior to her latest championship retention at UFC 275, Shevchenko was asked whether a move down to strawweight would be possible during a fan Q&A. In response, the Kyrgyzstani acknowledged the difficulties it would involve, but certainly didn’t rule it out.
“Yeah, it’s gonna be interesting proposal. Going to strawweight means you have a serious weight (cut), but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible,” said Shevchenko. “Being a professional, you have to consider, if you cut too much weight to strawweight, how are you going to fight at bantamweight? … Everything is possible.” (h/t Sportskeeda MMA)
The verdict from the strawweight queen? ‘No thanks’.
Esparza, who is in the midst of her second reign on the 115-pound throne after unseating Rose Namajunas in a lackluster UFC 274 co-main event last month, was asked her thoughts about a potential Shevchenko arrival in the division while speaking with MMA Junkie’s Mike Bohn.
“Cookie Monster” suggested that Shevchenko, whom Esparza regards as the female MMA GOAT, would instill fear into the strawweight roster, especially with how she dealt with a pair of the division’s former champs up at flyweight.
“Well, that would be scary,” admitted Esparza with a laugh. “She is like, you know, a beast, for sure. I think that she would definitely put some fear in a lot of strawweights’ hearts. I mean, if you look at (Jéssica) Andrade and Joanna (Jędrzejczyk), some of the most dominant strawweights in the division, they go up, fight her, and they get destroyed.
“It’s hard to say what a weight cut would do to her, ’cause that’s a little, you know, a bit to go. But yeah, that would be scary… For me, Valentina, I consider her the GOAT of women’s MMA,” added Esparza.
For now, it seems Esparza will need to turn her attention to another dangerous opponent in the form of Weili Zhang, who likely secured her place as the first challenger to the American’s second reign with her highlight-reel finish of Jędrzejczyk in Singapore on June 11.
Perhaps the silver lining of a defeat for either women would be avoiding a potential meeting with Shevchenko down the line.
How do you think Carla Esparza would fare against Valentina Shevchenko?