One of the first crossover stars in combat sports is looking to concentrate her efforts in MMA this year.
Valentina Shevchenko is well known in the Muay Thai community and has been a long time fighter. What has started as a successful kickboxing career has grown into a booming MMA one. She won her first MMA fight in 2003 in her native Kyrgyzstan and got her second win in Seoul, South Korea the same year. She is carrying a 9-1 record in MMA and is looking to be the next star in the bantamweight division.
Shevchenko is always fighting, and has shifted between kickboxing and MMA more often the past few years. Legacy has seen value in this and has signed her to a multi-fight deal in both disciplines. After a stellar debut at Legacy’s first ever pro kickboxing event, she will have back to back fights with Jan Finney and Carina Damm.
We talk to the Kyrgyzstan born fighter about her career, her busy 2015 and coming from training in Peru to the U.S.
Wombat Sports: How did you get into kickboxing?
Valentina Shevchenko: I started training Martial Arts since the age of 5. Martial Arts is a family tradition. My mother, Elena, the sportswoman is a third Dan black belt of Taekwondo , and she is the president of Federation of Thai Boxing (Muay Thai) in Kyrgyzstan. My elder sister Antonina and I have followed her as an example. My sister Antonina is a 3 times World IFMA Muay Thai Champion and has two other World Kickboxing Titles. Since the beginning, my coach Pavel Fedotov kept challenging me to compete in Taekwondo and other Martial Art’s Tournaments which led to a natural transition to Muay Thai and Kick Boxing as other martial arts.
Wombat: You have taken up residence in Peru. How did that come about?
Shevchenko: I moved to Peru in 2008 with my sister and my coach Pavel Fedotov. We were traveling to South America to compete and do a seminar tour. When we arrived in Peru to teach Muay Thai, the martial artists were very hungry to learn. During our stay we fell in love with Peru, because it’s a beautiful country with beautiful people. The people are very friendly, the food is incredible, and the country is rich in nature and history.
W.S.: Have you found benefit training at a higher altitude there?
V.S.: I have trained at higher altitude several times. Specifically in Peru while preparing to fight MMA against Helen Bastos. I prepared for the fight in Cusco which is the site of the Historic Capital of the Inca Empire. Its elevation is around 3,400 m or 11,200 ft. When I entered the ring I felt very strong, and after the fight I was ready to go another 10 rounds more rounds. If done correctly you will have a definite advantage for fighting.
W.S.: You have started training in Houston, TX. Can you tell us about your team here in the states? Still planning on training in Peru?
V.S.: I am training in the states and will continue to train in Houston, Peru, and Thailand (Tiger Muay Thai). My coach with whom I have train 21 years, Pavel Fedotov, and my sister Antonina are here with me during my stay. My sister Antonina is preparing for some Boxing and Kickboxing fights so we are training together. While in the states, I am training with Vinicius “Draculino” Magalhães’s Team (Gracie Barra Texas/Draculino Team).
My managers Roger Allen and Pedro Caballero are responsible for bringing me here to the United States and are helping me with everything while I am here. Pedro has good form in Muay Thai and is a 4 stripe Brown Belt in BJJ.
W.S.: How are you enjoying Houston? Hobbies?
I really like it here. Houston is a multicultural city and the food is really good, especially Fajitas!
I love to practice shooting. In Peru my sister and I always compete in shooting tournament of the IPSC , IDPA and Tri Gun. When I am not training in martial arts, I am training for shooting competition.
W.S.: You have fought a who’s who in Muay Thai. Who was your toughest opponent? Favorite fight?
V.S.: For me every fight and every opponent is unique.
Every fight is my favorite fight, because my coach demands me to be at my best. Spirit is what helps to win fights. For me the spirit is not only the minutes in the ring, it is much more. It is how you prepare for the fights, how you train, what you eat, what you think, what and how you speak… The victory works not in the several minutes which are conducted in a ring, it is the sum of many things. The one who was more sincere in training and in desire to win will be victorious.
W.S.: Has the traveling gotten easier over the years? Any tricks you have picked up?
V.S.: Traveling is my life. I like to travel around the world, to meet new and interesting people, and to learn the culture of every country. To see how people live, what they eat, what they think.
My trick is I don’t carry a lot of things! Only the important things like a mouth guard and gloves.
W.S.: You took your first MMA fight in 2003. What did you learn from that fight and how have you changed as a fighter since then?
V.S.: I started fighting MMA in 2003. In 2003 I won the World Title of Korean MMA in Seoul, South Korea. Since that time I have had many fights and have evolved as a fighter. I was raised my whole life to be a fighter in all disciplines, and now with the sum of all of that training I am much more experienced , but every day I train to be better.
W.S.: You always stay busy especially the past few years. How do you keep up with the pace?
V.S.: You need to train right, and to rest right. Nothing in excess is good.
W.S.: You have taken more MMA fights recently. Are the opportunity for Muay Thai bouts dwindling versus MMA? How do you see the women’s kickboxing landscape changing with women’s MMA’s popularity?
V.S.: Generally women’s martial arts, like Muay Thai, kickboxing, and MMA, are more popular around the world today. I think this is great! There is a difference between male sports and female sports. A woman must simultaneously show strength of mind and skill to show grace and the beauty inherent to her gender. Women are different than men physically so we must utilize our high level of technique, flexibility, and speed.
W.S.: You recently signed with Legacy to a MMA and kickboxing contract. What is it like for you to be competing in the US more often and being a part of the Legacy promotion?
V.S.: I am very glad to be a part of Legacy. Mick Maynard is a visionary and one of the good guys. I currently have multi fight contract with Legacy and hope to continue fighting for him in both MMA and Kickboxing. I like to stay busy.
W.S.: You are coming off a win from Legacy kickboxing and now are going to fight back to back in MMA. How are you preparing to take on two different opponents in the span of six weeks?
V.S.: Yes, it’s difficult, but possible. It will require a more concentrated and focus for my training. I have trained all of my life and stay in fighting shape most of the year in case the opportunity presents itself.
W.S.: Will you be continuing to do both kickboxing and MMA? Any goals for the next few years?
V.S.: Yes, I will continue with both. I plan to compete in the 2015 IFMA World Championships this year in August. The goal I have is to continue to grow as a complete martial artist which is a lifelong process. For me it not only a sport, martial arts is my life. I do what I like. I like Martial Arts.
W.S.: Anything you want to add/ thank?
V.S.: I want to personally thank you Marq for the interview and your long term coverage of WMMA. I want thank all those who stand in the ring with me every time I enter. My family, my friends, my training partners, my sponsors and Amber Sports, Mick Maynard, and last but not least my fans throughout the world and at home. You are an inspiration to me. I want to thank everyone for the warm welcome to the United States. And I would like to thank my manager Roger Allen for helping me get to the U.S. and the opportunities to fight.
You can find out more about Valentina Shevchenko by following her on twitter @BulletValentina and on facebook.