Renowned MMA figure Chael Sonnen doesn’t believe that UFC Women’s Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko has been able to “get over” with the sport’s fanbase.
Shevchenko has ruled over the 125-pound weight class since a 2018 win against Joanna Jędrzejczyk. In her subsequent fights, the Kyrgyzstani has defended her gold seven times and established herself as one of the promotion’s most dominant titleholders.
But while her first six defenses fit that narrative well, her seventh was certainly not an easy night at the office. Against Taila Santos this past weekend at UFC 275, “Bullet” was given her toughest test to date. After some early adversity on the ground, Shevchenko fought back to earn a split decision victory following five rounds of action in Singapore.
In a video uploaded to his YouTube channel post-fight, former two-division UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen assessed Shevchenko’s latest triumph and her ongoing reign.
Interestingly, the fighter-turned-analyst used UFC 275 to suggest that Shevchenko isn’t as popular as she may seem. According to Sonnen, despite Shevchenko’s background and interesting history, fans simply aren’t interested in her.
“She really is a fascinating human being, on paper,” said Sonnen. “We’re told that she speaks seven languages… She trained the military, not only in unarmed combat, she trained them in armed combat. Her mother was a world champion in something. Was it judo? … Oh, and by the way, her sister is completely awesome as well. And you guys aren’t interested in her, and I don’t know why.”
Acknowledging that many would perhaps dispute that argument, Sonnen cited the fact that Shevchenko defended her belt in the co-main event on Saturday, while what he described as an “unanticipated” matchup between Glover Teixeira and Jiří Procházka headlined as evidence for his claim.
“I know you’re going to push back… ‘Bullet’ is not main eventing. You can stop right there. The ‘Bullet’ is not over with you guys,” insisted Sonnen. “Procházka versus Glover was not the most anticipated UFC (fight) of the year. However, it just might have been the most unanticipated, truly.
“It was not an anticipated fight, it did not have a whole lot on it, and it still was going to be the main event over the ‘Bullet.’ … The audience and the crowd just isn’t onboard with the ‘Bullet.’ I’m just wondering why?” Sonnen questioned.
Sonnen: Shevchenko Hasn’t Picked A Side
Assessing the possible answers to his question, Sonnen pondered whether Shevchenko has failed to attract larger support due to the fact she hasn’t cemented herself as either a “good guy” or a “bad guy.”
“It’s really hard to be in-between, you’re either the good guy or the bad guy,” said Sonnen. “There’s something about ‘Bullet’ that you don’t like. She’s not over with you guys.”
Given the fact that she’s been in the promotion for so long and found incredible success inside the Octagon, Sonnen is surprised that Shevchenko’s yet to say or do anything to upset supporters. He posed the idea that with that, most fans may perceive the flyweight queen’s attitude and personality to be “insincere.”
“I think we’re starting to get a glimpse into it, that she just hasn’t picked a side,” suggested Sonnen. “Anybody who’s been in the organization as long has she has and has never done anything to upset the audience is probably being pretty insincere… You’re probably acting and playing a character.
“She got real close to (the other side) after this fight with Santos. She wanted to give an excuse… It’s interesting. I don’t know how that’s gonna sit with you (fans)… The ‘Bullet’ is fantastic,” Sonnen continued. “I’m just trying to make an observation… Somebody this good for this long that checks every box, and even in the night that was designed for her to be upset, she found a way to succeed. This is an amazing competitor. I’m asking, what is it about her that isn’t working? … Is it that you don’t know her well enough? That you think she’s phony?”
Do you agree with Chael Sonnen’s take on Valentina Shevchenko?