TORONTO – Katlyn Chookagian has been through this backup business before.
At UFC 230 five weeks ago at Madison Square Garden, Chookagian was tapped as a backup in case Sijara Eubanks or Valentina Shevchenko couldn’t make weight for what was supposed to be a vacant flyweight title fight. Then the UFC scrapped that plan.
Instead, that belt is on the line Saturday between former bantamweight title challenger Shevchenko (15-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) and ex-strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) in the UFC 231 co-main event at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.
Once again, Chookagian (11-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) is the promotion’s backup plan and will step in for a title fight if there are issues with either Shevchenko or Jedrzejczyk. But this time, she has the benefit of her own fight on the card against Jessica Eye (13-6 MMA, 3-5 UFC).
“I’m fully focused on Jessica,” Chookagian said today at a media day in support of UFC 231. “… I try to not focus on the opponent, but me. If I prepare for Jessica Eye and something happens and they switch opponents, I’ll be prepared the best that I’m prepared. I always have good conditioning, so if it goes from three to five rounds, that’s usually better for me. I prefer five rounds.”
Besides being unofficially the next in line for the belt, given her backup status – a status not given to Eye – Chookagian fully believes her fight with Eye is a title eliminator.
Chookagian, who will turn 30 at the end of this month, has won three straight fights and both her fights since the UFC installed the flyweight division. She beat Mara Romero Borella in January, and in July topped former bantamweight title challenger Alexis Davis.
“Besides the two girls fighting in the co-main event, we’re the only ones being talked about and taken seriously in this division, so I definitely think this is a No. 1 contender fight,” Chookagian said.
There was some backlash when Jedrzejczyk was put into the title fight with Shevchenko after inaugural champion Nicco Montano was stripped of the belt earlier this fall. But given Jedrzejczyk’s credentials as the former strawweight champion, Chookagian has no issue with her getting the title shot.
She doesn’t think the Polish standout is going to come out on top against Shevchenko on Saturday night, given what she believes will be a deficit in the “mental edge” and explosion departments. But she has no problem with her fighting for the belt.
“Joanna had how many title defenses? Everyone knows who she is, and no one knows who the rest of us are,” Chookagian said. “It’s business. Joanna fighting Valentina brings attention to all of us in the end … I think it’s a great thing, Joanna fighting for the title, and I think she deserves it.”
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- UFC 231 co-main event breakdown: Does Jedrzejczyk's volume or Shevchenko's precision win out?
- Daily Debate results: Is Valentina Shevchenko in Joanna Jedrzejczyk's head before UFC 231?
Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Katlyn Chookagian ready to jump into UFC 231 title fight, but only focused on Eye