Valentina Shevchenko joins Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole to discuss her dominant title reign and what she expects in her seventh title defense Saturday at UFC 275 against challenger Taila Santos. "Bullet" also talks about possibly moving up to the 135-pound division and what that would mean for her.
KEVIN IOLE: Hey, folks. I am Kevin Iole, and welcome to "Yahoo! Sports." And my guest right now is the champ-- maybe the most dominant champ in the UFC at this point, and you're going to see her at UFC 275 on June 11. Of course, I'm talking about the UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. Valentina, how are you doing?
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO: Doing good. Doing good, Kevin. Nice to hear you.
KEVIN IOLE: Now, you're going to have a chance to fight Talia Santos in Singapore. So let's start with this. I know you and your sister Antonina love to travel, and you've been all over the world. Tell us about Singapore. What is it going to be like for people who maybe make the trip to see the fight in Singapore?
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO: You know, actually, it's my first trip into Singapore. Never been there before. So for me, it's also first time. And definitely-- I prefer to travel with more free time to really understand and enjoy the country.
But when you're fighting-- when you are traveling for a fight, it's different. You are there, but mentally, you are not there--
KEVIN IOLE: Right.
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO: Because everything that you think about is about your upcoming fight. And definitely, you are working; you are enjoying; you experience everything. But you are you cannot feel it in 100%. So I will do my best to see the most what I can from Singapore. And I've heard so much that it is amazing country-- so beautiful-- and really try to enjoy everything, what I can.
KEVIN IOLE: You have been known for your amazing consistency-- just reeling off win after win. You've been so dominant, as I mentioned, in the division. But you're facing a different kind of opponent, I think, in this fight, and I want to get your take on this.
Talia Santos doesn't have the reputation-- she hasn't been in the UFC as long as some of the other fighters that you've fought, right? And that's not to say that she's not a good fighter because I believe she is. But she doesn't have the accomplishments that Lauren Murphy had or Katlyn Chookagian or other women that you've fought. How do you guard against complacency given that, that she doesn't have that long resumé of success like a lot of your other opponents had?
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO: This is exactly what you are saying-- it's right. So-- yeah, no matter how she came into this opportunity to fight for the title-- but if she's here, she deserved it, right?
KEVIN IOLE: Right.
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO: And she showed that, in the previous fights, that she is a tough opponent, strong opponent with a lot of power, and you cannot take it out from here. But my goal is not just looking in her fight game and say, oh, my God, she's so powerful or whatever. My thing-- it's to see-- where are her holes, and where I can destroy her?
So no, not to admire, but to destroy. This is-- when I start to study my opponent, this is what I focus into. And definitely, I understand that she's very strong. Yes, maybe she didn't have that much time, but, you cannot take her power away that she didn't have opportunity to fight against all that fight, as you mentioned before.
So yeah, I'm not considering it-- I don't take it-- I just see who is my opponent next, right now, at this moment. Where is she good? Where is she bad? And what should I do to win her and just show full martial arts, what I have in the majority, like, powerful and, like, beauty and everything-- what I can do.
KEVIN IOLE: You know, Mike Tyson, when he was at his peak as a heavyweight champ-- he used to intimidate a lot of guys. And the saying was that a lot of fighters that are fighting Mike Tyson were beaten before they ever got into the ring. Do you think you're still getting-- you're starting to get to that point, given how dominant you've been against all these girls?
And Laura Murphy is a great example. Laura Murphy had been on an amazing run really looked good and gets in the ring against you and she doesn't make it out of the fight. I mean, do you feel like you're starting to get that? And is this something that benefits you if they are, in fact, a little bit intimidated?
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO: I cannot get into the head and what they are thinking-- my opponents. I don't know what's happening in their mind at that moment. But also I don't want to put it into my head and start to believe that everyone is scared and you're going to have-- it's going to benefit because what I think that-- I am really fighting the best version of my opponents.
KEVIN IOLE: Right.
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO: And they are preparing for their fight. And that's what make me prepare the best what I can for my fight. So I don't want to take nothing, like, as a credit or somebody thinks-- and put it in my head. No, no, I'm not thinking about that. I think backward-- they are not scared, that they are ready to fight till the end. And this is what made me even more ready to fight till the end and just get this victory,
KEVIN IOLE: No matter what. She was impressive in her win over Joanne Calderwood, I thought, and knocked Joanne down. Joanne's a good striker-- and finished her with a choke. I'm sure you saw that fight. I'm sure you've kind of broken down the fight. What was your take on how she performed, and did anything she do against Joanne surprise you?
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO: She can have, like, amazing victory against some opponent, but it's nothing that you-- it's not supposed to impress you because you are learning a fighter-- the strategy-- your moves, because yeah, Jennifer Maia also won to Jo Calderwood with armbar. But it's kind of like-- this is only when it was against this particular opponent and nothing more. You just take what you need to take from that victory, her victory-- just her moves and strategy and tactic, and that's it. You don't have to put there any emotions. No, just real facts.
KEVIN IOLE: One of the things that I think is amazing about you is your consistency and how your performance is always the same. And I wonder if you think that is your best attribute. I think a Rose Namajunas-- an extraordinarily talented fighter, and she put on a-- kind of a lackluster performance in her fight at UFC 274 against Carla Esparza. And I wonder if you think part of what separates you-- obviously, you have great physical skills, but is your ability to get to that same high level fight after fight after fight.
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO: I think it's only-- the difference-- it's years, what I have in martial arts-- my experience. And watching everything-- what's happening in the martial arts, in the fights, how people acted, what they do, how they win, how they lose-- it's made me learn and take from this experience, and don't do that mistakes in your game. And definitely, I am in martial arts, doing martial arts for 28, 29 years. 29 years-- it's a lot. And for this time, I definitely could see a lot different fighters-- how they like react, how they do, how they fight, and I learn from every single experience with what I see. And this is, I think, the, good abilities that you are learning not from your mistakes. You are learning from other people's mistakes, and this is what define a good fighter from the better fighter.
KEVIN IOLE: Well, let's wrap it up with this-- and, of course, everybody always asks you about going back to 35 and fighting a champion there. I want to ask you this. How were you different when you fight at 35 and you're a physically smaller opponent, and you maybe your punches don't hurt the person you're fighting at 35 as much as they do, say, at 25. Physically, do you have to fight a different way? Do you think you're a different type of fighter when you're at the higher weight compared to at the lower weight?
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO: I think, in 125, I am faster. I'm even faster because I-- for 135, I don't have to weight to cut weight, and it's basically what my work wait is-- work [INAUDIBLE] out-- like 155. But in 125, I feel myself double faster, double powerful, yes.
KEVIN IOLE: Mm.
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO: And yeah, but I'm not discarding possibility about fighting back in 135. I would say I gain more power-- my punch is more powerful in 135, but a little bit slower, maybe. [LAUGHS]
KEVIN IOLE: Well, we look forward to seeing what may happen down the road. Dana White's been on all sides of that issue. So we don't know what he's thinking. But first, you've got to take care of business on June 11 against Talia Santos. Valentina Shevchenko, thank you so much. Congratulations on, already, a fantastic career, and keep it up.
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO: Thank you so much, Kevin. Have a great day.
KEVIN IOLE: You too.