Valentina Shevchenko Wants Weili Zhang to Earn Flyweight Shot

Valentina Shevchenko

Valentina Shevchenko has not reciprocated the interest for a potential champion vs. champion fight against Weili Zhang. The flyweight champion believes that much more work needs to be handed in from the new strawweight champion.

At UFC Shenzhen, Weili Zhang made history in becoming the first-ever Chinese UFC world champion when she dethroned Jessica Andrade for the strawweight strap. In the post-fight press conference, Weili Zhang was asked about her interest in a potential clash against reigning flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko, to which Zhang responded:

“Yes for sure [I’d fight Shevchenko],” she said. “I am always willing to fight against strong opponents, it makes me enjoy the sport, and it will be a good opportunity for me to learn from them.”

When approached with the same question by MMA Junkie, Shevchenko’s response was much more dismissive of the potential bout as well as Zhang’s resume as a whole:

“I think to get this right, she has to prove (herself),” Shevchenko told MMA Junkie. “You have to fight with the best ones. Like Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), Rose (Namajunas), Tatiana (Suarez). She has to prove that she belongs here. She can’t just jump over. She jumped once to face Jessica Andrade, but it was once. Now she has time to really show her skills.”

The shortage of flyweight contenders and both Zhang’s and Shevchenko’s insistence on remaining active may make this bout a reality in the long run, but for the time being, Shevchenko wants to see more from the Chinese champion, even though she respects her as a fighter:

“I think she’s a good fighter, but she still didn’t fight with the best ones in her weight class,” Shevchenko said. “There is more work to happen. There are more fighters to face to prove that you deserve it, that you deserve to be in this spot. I think a lot of stories will come in the strawweight division, so there is a lot of fighters to face her. But we have one new Chinese champion, and I think it’s great for that region. I think she’s a very huge star in her country, and it’s history.”

Do you agree with Valentina Shevchenko? Would Weili Zhang need to do more to earn a fight against Valentina Shevchenko for the flyweight championship?