Valentina Shevchenko knows she's favored to win at UFC 228 but that doesn't matter to her.
The former Muay Thai stylist, who has already competed for the women's bantamweight title in the UFC, will attempt to become flyweight champion on Saturday night when she meets Nicco Montano in the co-main event from Dallas.
Odds makers have made Shevchenko a massive favorite with some betting lines sitting at 10-to-1 in her favor to beat Montano, who won the belt after competing on "The Ultimate Fighter" last year. In fact, Shevchenko is the biggest favorite to ever go up against a sitting UFC champion.
Of course, Shevchenko didn't become the favorite in this fight by accident.
She's the more established fighter with a much longer list of credentials including wins over the likes of Holly Holm and Julianna Pena not to mention a pair of razor close battles with reigning women's bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. But an impressive resume and more accolades won't win Shevchenko the fight on Saturday night, which is why she refuses to look at Montano as anything less than the greatest challenge of her career.
"I put every opponent in the same category. I will not compare names because it's not right. Personally, I'm not divided about this kind of opponent or that kind of opponent. I put everybody on the same line," Shevchenko told MMAWeekly ahead of UFC 228.
"You cannot be relaxed, not one time. Never. It doesn't matter what kind of opponent you have in front of you."
While Shevchenko took several shots at Montano while she was waiting for the flyweight champion to get healthy enough to finally step into the Octagon with her, she carried none of that into her training camp.
The 30-year old Russian born contender has seen far too many fighters suffer from the ills of overlooking an opponent they were supposed to beat and then end up on the wrong end of a defeat.
In this case, Shevchenko knows that Montano didn't get here by accident or she wouldn't be holding the championship going into the fight.
"The one thing is she's holding the belt and that says everything about her," Shevchenko said. "Because someone who doesn't have enough experience will not hold the belt, will not win the reality [show] because it was not just two girls in that show. It was 16 girls with high level opponents she was fighting. She's an MMA fighter. She's fighting in the same in stand up game and the same in the ground game. Every time, I'm preparing for each opponent carefully and it's bad when you underestimate your opponent and it's also bad when you estimate her too much.
"So we are giving her the right credit for her style and her technique."
Obviously the game plan for Shevchenko fighting at flyweight against somebody like Montano is different than the way she approached her last title bout against a much bigger opponent such as Nunes.
That said, the end goal is still the same, which means the work put into getting ready was just as much if not more than what she did the last time she stepped into a title bout in the UFC.
"I'm preparing for her. It doesn't mean I'm thinking it's already done," Shevchenko said. "No, I'm preparing the same way that I did for all of my fights. It doesn't matter.
"I will not be relaxed until I've done my job and I've won the fight."