The end of 2018 was a prosperous time for the Shevchenko sisters. On Nov. 30, Antonina won her UFC debut and improved to 7-0 when she beat Ji Yeon Kim. Just one week later, on Dec. 8, Valentina defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231 to become the UFC’s women’s flyweight champion.
A lifetime of work led to those victories, hours and hours of time spent sparring with each other. So what was different last November? The proximity of the scheduled bouts allowed the Shevchenkos to benefit from one another’s amped up training sessions.
It’s a benefit that each could profit from again; first, this week at UFC Newark, where Antonina takes on Lucie Pudilova, and then next week when Valentina defends her belt against Liz Carmouche in Uruguay.
“It’s the second time we’ve had this situation,” Antonina said of her and her sister fighting on back-to-back weekends. “It’s better because when there’s training camp for both of us, I’m her sparring partner and she’s mine, so we are preparing together and staying focused for our goals and fights.”
The intensity of sparring with someone who is also in the middle of a pre-fight training camp is a great simulation for what can be expected on fight night. And their shared focus will continue throughout fight week because despite an estimated 20-hour trip to Montevideo, Uruguay next week, Valentina is here in Newark to continue her support.
It’s a pivotal moment in Antonina’s career. She’s fresh off her first loss (a split decision to Roxanne Modafferi) and now has the opportunity to show how she handles adversity.
“It was not the result we wanted,” Antonina said of her loss in April. “Every fight, win or loss, brings you a new experience. So it’s definitely a step forward. You think of all the mistakes you made or didn’t make and just keep going in training. I’ve been in this sport a long time. You keep going and keep improving because you want it so bad.”
Antonina said she’s been focusing on her standup, ground game and wrestling heading into this matchup with Pudilova – who also finds herself in a similar situation coming off back-to-back losses.
“She’s a good striker and definitely puts pressure on her opponents,” Antonina said. “I expect the same in this fight. But I think I’m a more experienced fighter and ready for her pressure. I will put my game plan in and so will she. We will see who fulfills their plan.”
If all goes according to plan, the Shevchenko sisters will fly to Uruguay next week fresh off a win in Newark. But the intensity doesn’t drop there. There’s still a belt that needs to be defended.