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Sijara Eubanks: ‘Without me, nobody’ beats Valentina Shevchenko

“Sarj” cannot name more than two people (herself included) who have a genuine shot at dethroning UFC women’s Flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko.

Looking up and down the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Flyweight ladder, Sijara Eubanks struggles to see much competition for reigning queenpin, Valentina Shevchenko.

Eubanks (6-6) makes her return to the Flyweight division when she meets Priscila Cachoeira (10-3) at UFC Vegas 32: “Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw” on July 17, 2021 (via ESPN+). “Sarj” returns to Flyweight for the first time since 2018 on the heels of a two-fight losing skid. Observing the landscape of her old stomping grounds, Eubanks told the division has improved leaps and bounds since she last fought there.

“1,000 times — 1,000 times better,” Eubanks said. “When I was in TUF, I was like, ‘This division is looking pretty dank.’ And that’s not why I left it. When Valentina first got the strap, I was like, ‘Okay, let me go to bantamweight, there are some more fights over there. In the last 1.5 years, that division [women’s flyweight] has really, really developed.

“Not only has the division developed with new fighters, but you see fighters who are vets like Carla [Esparza at strawweight] and, she’s not my favorite person in the world but, Lauren Murphy,” she continued. “Those girls have gotten better over the past couple of years and they’ve been in the divisions for a long time.

“And you also have fresh meat,” she continued. “The Flyweight division and Strawweight divisions are going to have more girls because most women are smaller anyway. You’ve got constant, fresh new girls coming into these divisions to keep the girls that are already there better and better. I’m actually quite impressed with how much better and how quickly that Flyweight division got good. Alexa Grasso is in there now, JoJo [Calderwood], Jessica Eye, [Jessica] Andrade is up there now. I’m really surprised by how good, how fast that division got.”

Despite her praise for the state of Flyweight, Eubanks still sees little competition for Shevchenko.

“Without me, nobody, if I’m honest. I think Katlyn [Chookagian]. Me and Katlyn, that’s it if I’m honest.”

Eubanks, a bit of a sneakerhead, also reflected on the most-cherished Jordans in her collection.

“The Bred 11s. I’ve been in love with those. Those were my first Jordans when I was a kid,” she shared. “I remember being a kid and my cousin had them on. He came out of the house and he said, ‘Don’t touch my sneakers, don’t crease them.’ He put paper towels on the bottom he was so proud of these shoes. I thought these were the coolest shoes ever. I asked them what they were and he said, ‘These are the Bred 11s’ and that was when they first came out. I told my mom, ‘I want some Jordans’ and my mother said, ‘No way are you getting Jordans. Absolutely not.’ I wanted the Bred 11s for so, so long. I got my first pair last year actually. It took my 30 years to get a pair and I finally got them.”

UFC Vegas 32 takes place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 24, 2021. The ESPN+-streamed card is headlined by Cory Sandhagen vs. T.J. Dillashaw in a likely No. 1 contender bantamweight eliminator match up.

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