14 Oct [MMA] 
Jessica Andrade sees flyweight debut as path to 'extraordinary' Valentina Shevchenko

ABU DHABI – Jessica Andrade is moving up to the UFC women’s flyweight division for one reason: to become champion.

Andrade (20-8 MMA, 11-6 UFC), a former UFC strawweight titleholder, is making a big career change for UFC on ESPN+ 38 on Saturday. She’s jumping up a weight class to take on Katlyn Chookagian (14-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) in a co-main event matchup at Flash Forum at Yas Island and streams on ESPN+.

After she lost her title to Zhang Weili, then dropped a closely contested rematch with Rose Namajunas, the Brazilian thought she needed a fresh coat of paint. The UFC gave her a top-ranked contender at 125 pounds, and Andrade said that’s exactly what she wanted.

“I didn’t expect anything less from the UFC due to my history, everything I’ve done,” Andrade told reporters, including MMA Junkie, during Wednesday’s UFC on ESPN+ 38 media day. “It was supposed to be Jessica Eye. She had to have surgery, but I got Katlyn, which is great. I didn’t expect anything less.”

Andrade thinks Chookagian will be a good measuring stick. No matter what division Andrade competes in, she gives up size and length to her opponents. Chookagian has significant advantages in those categories, but Andrade said she has a good plan to counter it.

“She’s got good ground game,” Andrade said. “Even though she’s not that powerful, she’s always (going). She’s always landing good shots. I think the difference is going to be shortening the range and taking her down and working her on the ground.”

If Andrade is successful in her divisional debut, she said she’s immediately going to look at the top. A matchup with 125-pound champ Valentina Shevchenko (19-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) has been on her wish list since she held the 115-pound title, and Andrade doesn’t see herself having to do much work in order to make it come to fruition now that they share the same weight class.

“That was the plan before,” Andrade said. “I wanted to fight Valentina for the belt in her division. But now, moving up, I’m definitely working up and I think this fight puts me right there in a good spot for that argument.

“She’s extraordinary. She’s beyond anyone else, and I think she’s better than any girl right there, and she’s the girl to beat right now. It used to be Ronda (Rousey), and now it’s Valentina. That’s the girl to beat in the UFC.”