Joanne Calderwood expects UFC President Dana White to stage something of a free-for-all to crown the next UFC flyweight title challenger – an octagon version of “The Hunger Games.”
“I’m hoping our paths do cross,” Calderwood, who on Saturday faces Taila Santos at UFC Vegas 43, said Wednesday on The MMA Hour.
With Shevchenko mowing down the competition at 125 pounds, there aren’t many obvious choices left for Valentina Shevchenko, other than the one everyone has seen twice in two-division champ Amanda Nunes.
Calderwood, of course, would like her chance to dethrone the champ. Even if he fell short twice on the precipice of a title shot, losing by submission to Jennifer Maia and by split-call to Lauren Murphy, she believes she’d do a better job that Shevchenko’s most recent competition.
“I feel like Lauren Murphy, she scraped that win from me, and then she went out and did that performance,” Calderwood said. “At least go out on your sword.”
Murphy’s UFC 266 meeting with Shevchenko wasn’t just hard to watch as a spectator, Calderwood said, but as a competitor.
“Yeah, I know it was a close fight, but that was your one chance,” she said. “Go out there and take it to the champ. For me watching it as a fan, I was like, there’s nothing really happening here. … I know Valentina’s a calculated killer, but you can at least go out there and make it exciting. Die on your sword.”
As easy as it is to say that from a distance, Calderwood said she’s put a lot of time and effort into making sure she shows up on fight night. It’s still a work in progress. Prior to her fight with Maia, she said she felt off on the day of the fight, which she took on short notice when a title bout with Shevchenko at UFC 251 was called off, and passed out backstage during her medical examination.
On the Wednesday following the fight, Calderwood said she tested positive for COVID-19, indicating to her that she may have been unwell when she stepped into the octagon (though fighters are tested on multiple occasions for the virus on fight week to ensure the opposite).
“I took it short notice and I wasn’t good on the day,” she said. “After the fight, I got rushed to the hospital and there were a lot of issues there. .. But as a fighter, every day is not going to be a good day, so you have to prepare for those and let that go.”
And while it’s an entirely different thing to say you’re the person to beat Shevchenko and to actually do it, Calderwood can promise she would at least make it a fight.
“I can imagine it being a scary thing [fighting Shevchenko], but I mean, when I’m standing in front of Santos it’s going to be a scary thing,” she said. “This is what we do. We’re fighters, and all these doubts and thoughts that come into your mind, it’s normal. You just have to deal with it and keep putting yourself in those places so when it does actually happen you don’t freeze, and you do your job at the end of the day.”