Since dropping to 125lbs almost exactly two years ago, Valentina Shevchenko has looked downright unbeatable. She dominated Priscila Cachoeira, decisioned both Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Liz Carmouche, and head kicked Jessica Eye into a different zip code.
So when the fight got booked, it wasn’t a surprise for Katlyn Chookagian to hear disparaging things about her chances and herself in general. In fact, Chookagian was expecting just that.
“Obviously, I saw the reaction that her last two opponents got - in the build up to the fight, everyone saying they were going to get killed, that they’re trash, that no one can compete with Valentina,” Chookagian shared.“I was wondering how that would affect me, but it honestly has not affected me. If anything it’s less pressure on me than before. It’s harder when you’re expected to win.”
And although she understands where all of the hype comes from, she thinks that people’s view of the champ is somewhat skewed.
“Everyone says ‘oh, she’s this deadly killer with head kick knockouts,” she said. “I think everyone looks at her fight with Jessica Eye, but if you look at her other fights, most of them are decisions.”
Chookagian points out that she too has a lot of decisions, which is something people criticize her for, yet here her opponent is with a similar number of decisions seemingly overlooked.
Regardless of the methods of their victories in the past, Chookagian feels ready for whatever Shevchenko brings. As a longshot challenger, she knows people see her just like the past 4 opponents. She, though, feels that there is one key difference between her approach and the approach of the past opponents.
“I think everyone sees the highlight reel and she definitely is very, very good - there's a reason why she’s the champion - but I think that some of the other opponents kind of bought into that hype a little bit too much and gave her more respect than they should have,” Chookagian points out. “I don’t want to say that I’m not respecting her, that I’m not focusing on what she’s capable of. Like I said, she’s definitely the best fighter that I’ve ever faced. With that being said, I train with some of the best people in the world. If I haven’t seen it in a fight, I see it on a daily basis in training.”
That training includes time in the blue basement with the Danaher Death Squad and time on the mits with coach Mark Henry. Combine that with a killer list of training partners and Chookagian could not be more confident in her chances this weekend.
“She definitely doesn’t have better jiu jitsu or wrestling than the people I train with,” Chookagian said. “And striking, I box with world champion boxers all the time.”