This story is part two of Boardroom’s Women’s History Month series highlighting bold figures forging distinctive paths in the worlds of sports, business, culture, and entertainment.
Part I: Morgan DeBaun | Part III: Dany Garcia
She shoots guns, spins pirouettes, and broke Halle Berry’s ribs. “Bullet” is a true international woman of mystery — and she’s on her way to becoming the greatest female MMA fighter ever.
I wouldn’t recommend attempting to make a movie about Valentina Shevchenko’s life — not just one movie, anyway. A single flick ain’t enough to capture the bang-bang intrigue, sensibility, and peak human athletic triumph that has marked the celebrated mixed martial artist and UFC flyweight champion’s professional life on a truly global scale.
A southpaw fighter schooled in taekwondo, Muay Thai, vale tudo, boxing, kickboxing, and judo, Shevchenko is a one-woman army of ducking, darting, punchfacey, kicktastic verve, equally dangerous pushing the pace of the action or counterattacking on the back foot with right hooks from Hades. A well-known firearms enthusiast and prolific competitive pistol-shooter, she has a Glock tattooed above her left hip and boasts the nickname “Bullet.” Born in Kyrgyzstan to Russian parents, she didn’t just learn to speak Spanish — she became a citizen of Peru. She spins signature pirouettes after depositing her opponents to the canvas for good, equal parts Bolshoi and belligerent.
Really, putting Shevchenko on celluloid would require the creation of an entire James Bond-level globetrotting action/adventure franchise featuring multiple generational stars stepping into her Project Rock kicks. Such is the extent of the nuclear stockpiles of fist-furious debonnaire of which her oeuvre consists.
Mileage may vary regarding your pick for the women’s MMA GOAT, from Cris Cyborg’s trailblazing to Ronda Rousey’s gate-crashing to Amanda Nunes’ championship achievements.
But none of those three can truly declare themselves an International Woman of Mystery, the kind you’d envision keeping a dozen passports, 10 types of currency, and a .357 Magnum inside a safe deposit box in Monaco.
To be fair, however, the rarest of adventures for you and me are simply another day on earth for Valentina Anatolievna Shevchenko.
Did I mention also that she also has a degree in film directing and co-starred with Halle Berry in the Oscar-winner’s 2020 directorial debut, Bruised? Devotees will note that she appeared as the glass-eating, fire-breathing Lucia “Lady Killer” Chavez, fearsome UFC rival to Berry’s Jackie “Pretty Bull” Justice.
While shooting MMA sequences for the Netflix film, Shevchenko threw a body kick that broke two of the all-time Hollywood superstar’s ribs.
Imagine doing that and getting away with it because that’s just how awesome you are. Or perhaps a better way of looking at things is that — fractures and all — Halle still got off easier than Jessica Eye when she met the Bullet at UFC 238 in summer 2019.
That’s the sort of gorgeously opportunistic violence you likely can’t teach — and probably shouldn’t.
The victory against Eye was the first defense of Shevchenko’s UFC women’s flyweight (125-pound) championship, a feat she’s gone on to repeat six more times. Her seven title defenses are tied for fifth-most in UFC history and tied with Amanda Nunes for No. 1 among women. With all seven coming in a row, however, she stands alone among female fighters for consecutive UFC title defenses, and only four human beings of any gender can claim more as of this writing.
All told, Shevchenko:
- Has never lost in the UFC flyweight division
- Leads the 125-ers all-time in knockout wins and takedowns landed
- Owns the rare distinction as a woman in MMA of having headlined a pay-per-view event
- Served as an ambassador for the International Federation of Muaythai Associations, teaching martial arts to kids in at-risk communities
- Received the Dank Order in 2019 — yes, it’s called that — an elite civic honor in her native Kyrgyzstan that acknowledges “contributing to an increase in the level of socio-economic development of the Kyrgyz Republic and the well-being of the people”
And she’s not done.
There is a small handful of women’s mixed martial artists who conceivably, plausibly belong in the GOAT debate, and Shevchenko is one of them. But as Cris Cyborg sleepwalks past ludicrously outmatched opponents in Bellator and Nunes continues to flirt with retirement rumors, there’s a clear path for Valentina: As inevitably as she lands a high kick that spiritually beheads an off-balance opponent or locks in a crucifix hold to deliver a series of hellbows until a sheepish referee insists on intervening, Shevchenko can’t be considered more than a few more big wins away from heights the fight game can’t sincerely say it’s ever seen.
Sure, it’s at least arguable that she’s there already, but staring down the iron sights at history, it’s truly fading into view — the status of women’s MMA’s all-time No. 1.
With a Bullet.
Valentina Shevchenko’s Records & Milestones
As of March 3, 2023.
- 7 total UFC title defenses (tied for No. 5 all-time; tied for most ever by a woman)
- 7 consecutive UFC title defenses (tied for No. 5 all-time; most ever by a woman)
- Holds every major UFC women’s flyweight championship record (most consecutive wins, most title fight wins, most knockout wins, most takedowns landed)
- Most title defenses by a woman in UFC history
- 4 wins over former UFC champions
- No. 1 active women’s MMA fighter according to Fight Matrix
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