By 12 years old, she was beating up older girls. By 15, she won her first title and was regularly knocking out women 10 years her senior.
“In my career, I’ve fought much more against adults. I didn’t compete in youth competitions. Ok, maybe once just to try it,” the 26-year-old says. “I won that one too,”
It’s noon and Shevchenko just finished a two-hour grappling session with 5th degree BJJ black belt Fernando Maccachero at Tiger Muay Thai & MMA Training Camp in Chalong – a place she originally planned to stay for a month in preparation of an MMA fight.
It’s the same story for most athletes who come to Phuket, falling in love with the beaches, lifestyle and distraction-free, high-level fight training. And it’s been a successful year for the Kyrgyzstani-native: she defeated Hellen Bastos in an MMA bout in February, won the Kun Lun women’s bantamweight title tournament in August and then defeated a much heavier opponent (7 kg more) in a K-1 bout last month.
“I’d like to return [to China], it is a big show with a big promotion. It was a pleasure to be there,” she says.
Shevchenko comes from a family of athletes: her mother is a 3rd degree black belt in Taekwondo and her sister is a fellow Muay Thai champion. Her brother-in-law, Pavel Fedotov, is also her head coach, a man akin to a father figure for her. The reason? He’s cornered every one of Shevchenko’s fights since her amateur debut at 8 years old.
“I was worried, of course, because I would see older girls with more experience. But Pavel would tell me, ‘You have to do what you know. Everything will work out if you do what you know’,” she says.
Fedotov is a big reason why Shevchenko has gone far in the fight world. One of the 16-time world champion’s favourite stories, however, occurred in August: Defeating three opponents in one night on her way to her latest title at “The Legends of Mulan” show in the Chinese Kun Lun promotion in August.
Though currently based in Phuket, Shevchenko previously spent the last six years in Peru representing their national Muay Thai team and holding training sessions all throughout the country. Just like in Thailand, it was love at first sight: she planned to sightsee for a few weeks but was immediately offered chances to conduct fight seminars, private lessons, and other coaching opportunities.
Four months after she arrived, she learned enough Spanish to hold an interview and, along with coach Pavel and her sister Antonina, bought a plot of land in a small village called Padricochas, located along the Amazon River.
“You can only get to it by boat. And before this year, there was only electricity for three hours a day,” she says, “Now, we have it for 24 hours. There are no distractions there and sometimes we train in the middle of the village, kids come up to us and we help teach them some moves.”
“For grappling, we train on a small football field. It’s tough and is just straight out in the jungle. So when I train on mats in Lima or in Phuket, it feels like paradise,” she says laughing.
The heat, beautiful scenery, and jungle-like atmosphere is where Shevchenko believes her training peaks. Which is why she plans to remain in Phuket for her upcoming fights: a title defense in China this November and an MMA bout in the United States in January.
“Here, it is relaxing but with world-class training. You can keep your head down, maintain focused, and just keep the training going,” she says.