A newly-crowned champion’s first title defense is always a special moment, but for Alexa Grasso, it’s a little more special than most.
Mexico’s Grasso will face off against the woman she defeated to win the title, Valentina Shevchenko, in a huge flyweight title rematch on Mexican Independence Day on Saturday, September 16. It’s a huge occasion that will celebrate Mexican fighting heritage, with the UFC’s lone Mexican world champion putting her title on the line in the main event.
“This is special because, as you’ll notice, Mexico has been growing so fast and so nice in the sport,” Grasso told reporters during her media day session in Las Vegas.
“Honestly, having Mexican champions was a few years ago kind of impossible. So it’s a big, big motivation for me, what Brandon (Moreno) has done, what Yair (Rodriguez) has done, what Irene (Aldana) has done, and every single Mexican on the card. Right now we have a card on Mexican Independence Day. This didn’t happen in another country, so this says a lot about Mexican support in every single fight.
“I always say that making history is never easy. But I’ve been working so, so hard every single day of my life to be at this moment. And this last camp wasn’t different, you know? I was training more. With more discipline. I was, lie, two, three times extreme with my training and with everything that has to be done to be the champion again, to win the fight again. I just tried to keep focusing on the goal.”
With former interim featherweight champion Yair Rodriguez losing his belt in his unsuccessful challenge for the undisputed title, Brandon Moreno also losing his flyweight title after a war with Alexandre Pantoja, and Irene Aldana falling short in her shot at the women’s bantamweight crown, Grasso currently stands as Mexico’s lone UFC champion. Some may see that as added pressure for Grasso, as she looks to ensure Mexico still has an active UFC champion, but she’s not looking at it that way.
“I don’t call it pressure. I think it’s more motivation, you know?” she said.
“We have done so much in this sport. We’ve been evolving so, so hard. And this keeps me with tons of motivation to keep the belt in Mexico.”
The fight itself offers Grasso the opportunity to underline her championship status by registering back-to-back wins over Shevchenko. But the former champion has suggested that it was down to her own mistakes on the night, rather than Grasso’s skill, that the title changed hands at UFC 285. Unsurprisingly, Grasso has a very different take.
“It just kind of surprised me, because someone with such big experience and competing at this high, high level, we know that there are no accidents,” Grasso stated.
“I trained for that moment. You also can see the video that I have before the fight, I was training exactly that same position. It was something that I trained to win that fight.”
As for the rematch, Grasso said she’s expecting another thrilling matchup, and admitted that the prospect of a stand-up battle with Shevchenko has her excited ahead of fight night.
“Well, of course, you know I love striking fights, and it was going pretty well in the striking department. But I did a lot of adjustment just in case she doesn’t want to strike with me.
“But I’m excited too, because she came back to Thailand to do Muay Thai again, so this excites me so much and I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be an amazing fight.”