Brother acts are nothing new in sports. Baseball (the DiMaggios), football (the Mannings), basketball (the Gasols), and hockey (the Sutters) have all seen their share of famous siblings. Boxing had the Spinks brothers, Leon and Michael, who were both Olympic gold medalists and world champions.
When UFC 255 takes place on Saturday, November 21, 2020 at UFC APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nev., the 541st card in UFC history will feature a first for the promotion. In the same month that Kamala Harris became the first female Vice President in U.S. political history, the UFC will put forth its first sister act on the same card, and it has nothing to do with Whoopi Goldberg in a nun’s habit.
UFC women’s world flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko will defend her title against Jennifer Maia. Earlier in the card, Shevchenko’s older sister Antonina, also in the flyweight division, will tangle with Ariane Lipski. Both Valentina (-1400) and Antonina (-160) are favored to emerge victorious at UFC betting sites.
“This card is more special than others because for the first time in the history of the UFC, two sisters are going to fight on the same card,” Valentina Shevchenko told Hablemos MMA. “But it’s not only sisters but also brothers.
Yes, there has been in the UFC brothers that fight in different weight classes and different events, but on the same event, and same (weight class) there hasn’t been (before). This would be the first time.”
Valentina Shevchenko on rebound
The younger Shevchenko, 32, is considered to be one of the finest female mixed martial artists in the world. She is ranked third overall in the UFC women’s pound-for-pound rankings.
She’ll be making her fourth title defense when she faces Maia in the octagon. Valentina Shevchenko is 19-3 as an MMA fighter, including an 8-2 slate since joining the UFC. She defeated Joanna Jędrzejczyk at UFC 231 to originally capture the title.
Shevchenko started her MMA career in the bantamweight division. She defeated former UFC world champion Holly Holm but after a pair of close losses to world champion Amanda Nunes, Shevchenko opted to drop down to the 113-pound flyweight division.
Her most recent fight was a Feb. 6 third-round TKO of Katlyn Chookagian at UFC 247. However, a knee injury postponed her return to the cage. Shevchenko was supposed to have fought Joanne Calderwood in June at UFC 250 but the injury scuttled that bout.
Antonina Shevchenko climbing the ladder
Antonina Shevchenko, 35, was the first of the two sisters to come to MMA competition. She went 3-0 from 2002-05 but following a unanimous decision victory over Hyun Seong Kim on July 9, 2005, took a 12-year hiatus from the sport.
From 2003-17 she also competed in 40 professional kickboxing and muay thai fights. Returning to the octagon in 2017, Antonina is 8-2 overall in her MMA career. Since becoming involved with UFC, she is 3-2, although Shevchenko has lost two of her last three bouts.
Oddly enough, in her most recent fight she lost a unanimous decision to Chookagian on May 30 in Las Vegas, meaning both sisters are coming off a bout against the same opponent.
Sharing a card
This is far from the first time that the Shevchenko sisters from Kyrgyzstan have contested bouts on one fight card. Several times during their Muay Thai careers they’d draw into fights on the same night.
“We always do the training camps together anyway, and we train together, helping each other out,” Valentina Shevchenko said. “Now having this opportunity to fight on the same event, we’re also going to have the same opportunity to rest together.”
Fighting together is also proving to be a bonus for their support staff.
“And most importantly, our trainer, master Pavel Fedotov, he’s going to get more of a break because he’s always training Antonina,” Valentina said. “She fights, and then he has to prepare me, and then I fight, and back to Antonina, so yeah.
“We always have a rest, but he’s always working non stop, so this will be better for him too.” Fedotov is a former Soviet Red Army soldier who is also the husband of Antonina Shevchenko.