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Valentina Shevchenko says muay Thai triumphs give her leg up on Joanna Jedrzejczyk in UFC 231 title fight

Valentina Shevchenko says muay Thai triumphs give her leg up on Joanna Jedrzejczyk in UFC 231 title fight
Amanda Nunes, right, blocks a punch by Valentina Shevchenko during their fight at UFC 215 on Sept. 9, 2017. (Jason Franson / Associated Press)

Valentina Shevchenko has been deprived of a UFC belt by defeat, by an opponent’s sickness and another fighter missing weight.

She knows what she’s getting when she fights former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant women’s flyweight belt Dec. 8 at UFC 231 in Toronto.

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Shevchenko (15-3) beat Jedrzejczyk (15-2) in three muay Thai fights between 2006 and 2008.

Jedrzejczyk got testy when asked this year about those fights, responding, “We are different fighters … there is nothing I should be concerned about. Should I?”

But at a luncheon Tuesday in Century City, Shevchenko disagreed.

“She can say it’s not affecting her. It’s affecting her,” Shevchenko said. “It was years ago and [Jedrzejczyk] has changed. Same as me. At the end of the day, all experience will help.

“I will use it to help me win this fight.”

Although muay Thai fighting restricts the wrestling that’s permitted in a mixed martial arts fight, Shevchenko and Jedrzejczyk have established themselves as stand-up specialists.

“I’m a complete fighter,” Shevchenko said, “but my favorite part is striking. It will be a very striking fight.”

Valentina Shevchenko discusses muay Thai giving her a leg up on Joanna Jedrzejczyk in UFC 231 tile fight.

Jedrzejczyk was the original strawweight champion, dethroned by Rose Namajunas, then beaten again by Namajunas before opting to avoid the difficult weight cuts of the 115-pound division to reunite with Shevchenko.

“I think the fight will happen. I’m most excited by [the fact] I have a fight,” Shevchenko said. “I used to fight in muay Thai each week, each month.”

Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes fell ill on the day of their scheduled main event in Las Vegas last year, and Nunes edged Shevchenko by a narrow decision in September 2017 — scores Shevchenko still disputes.

Then, with a 125-pound title shot at hand, champion Nicco Montana badly missed weight and was stripped of her belt in September, clearing Shevchenko for a November title fight that was canceled when it became clear Jedrzejczyk needed more time to prepare.

Shevchenko recalled defeating Poland’s Jedrzejczyk in three muay Thai world championships competition in 2006, 2007 and 2008, training in the same gym in Thailand for two months with Jedrzejczyk before defeating her in a first-round meeting.

“After I moved up [in weight], she became a champion,” Shevchenko said. “We never were enemies. She’s an opponent. I know her good side and bad side.”

Jedrzejczyk even volunteered to fight Shevchenko when Nunes pulled out of the July 2017 card.

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“She’s shown she’s a professional fighter,” Shevchenko said of Jedrzejczyk. “She’s very professional, which is good because I’m tired of opponents who aren’t.”

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