The trio is practically inseparable, with training and competing being one of the ties that has always bound them together. The sisters are always working together, training alongside one another, and when one competes, the other is there in the corner, feeling more nervous than the one that is inside the cage.
“When I see Valentina going to fight, I’m more nervous,” says the elder Shevchenko, who registered a second-round stoppage win over Ariane Lipski last time out at UFC 255. Six fights later, the younger half of the first sister act in UFC history scored a dominant decision win over Jennifer Maia, making it a tremendous night all around for the talented tandem.
“It’s always like this — you’re more nervous when your sister fights or somebody close to you,” she continues. “When you go into the fight, you’re already in this fighter mode, focused mode, and the only thing you’re worried about is to perform; you know everything. Sitting there and watching her go fight, it just makes me nervous because I can’t do anything other than support her.”
While she can’t do anything other than support her sister on Fight Night, the duo have been pushing each other as martial artists and competitors for the majority of their lives, and watching her younger sister ascend to the heights she’s reached has only pushed Antonina to work even harder as she continues in her transition from Muay Thai to mixed martial arts.
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“We don’t have same training camp, but it’s close, and watching her, looking at her as she prepared for her title defense — seeing how hard she was working — it gives me even more motivation to prepare for my fight,” says Shevchenko, who made the full-time move to MMA in the fall of 2017 and made her UFC debut 14 months later with a victory over Ji Yeon Kim. “This is what we love to do and what we’ve done before, and I’m hoping this time we both win our fights.”
Valentina collected her victory a couple weeks ago, and now it’s Antonina’s turn.
Saturday’s contest against Lee is the latest in a recurring pattern of fights that make up Shevchenko’s run in the UFC to date.
After earning her contract with a second-round finish on the Contender Series and beating Kim in her debut, the 36-year-old got a matchup with Top 10 fixture and veteran Roxanne Modafferi in her sophomore outing, landing on the wrong side of a split decision loss. Less than four months later, Shevchenko got back into the win column with a second-round submission win over Lucie Pudilova, pushing her record to 8-1.