HOUSTON — Valentina Shevchenko was doing a video interview with UFC Español after her victory at UFC 247 when a friend interrupted her. It wasn’t just any friend, though. The invader was Academy Award winner Halle Berry.
The two embraced and Berry congratulated Shevchenko on her third-round TKO win over Katlyn Chookagian to retain the UFC women’s flyweight title at Toyota Center.
“The best fight of the night,” Berry told the dominant UFC champion. “Said by me. For sure. Hands down the winner.”
Berry gushed on Instagram after Shevchenko’s finish: “My girl did THAT!”
Shevchenko and Berry developed a friendship last year while working together on Berry’s MMA film “Bruised.” Shevchenko helped train Berry for the movie and had a role in it. “Bruised” is expected to be released in theaters before the end of 2020.
Berry watched Shevchenko’s UFC 247 fight from cageside, rooting her on. She also visited with Shevchenko in her locker room beforehand.
“It was a very special moment for me,” Shevchenko said. “Halle, she’s an amazing person. I’m very happy that tonight she was here at the event. She came before the fight to wish me good luck and it was like a very special feeling.”
Shevchenko told ESPN that she was incredibly impressed with how hard Berry worked for “Bruised,” training in mixed martial arts years before she started on the movie.
“Halle, I think she is an inspiration for all women,” Shevchenko said. “She is such a hard worker. I know that to perform in this role, she was training for three years before starting filming to know how to do MMA, how to box, how to move. And she is doing it great. Very good — a really good level.”
Good enough for the 53-year-old Berry to fight in the UFC? Shevchenko would not doubt her.
“Who knows?” Shevchenko said. “You never know the mind of a person. I would say she can do it, yes. … Before the filming started, we were training in New York. Each day, we had three to four hours training from start to the end. Not one time she went to rest or take a breath. We were working, working on our sequences. And when we start to film, it was 12 hours [per day] non-stop fighting. And she was like doing so good in everything. I say, she’s really an inspiration for anyone.”
Shevchenko (19-3) is one of the top women’s fighters in the world. The Kyrgyzstan native has won five in a row, including three title defenses. Shevchenko, 31, has only lost to one fighter in her UFC career: Amanda Nunes, the current UFC featherweight and bantamweight champion.
The female fighting star said she took particular motivation for having Berry there watching and cheering for her. “This is what makes you think you can’t just go inside the Octagon and do a regular fight,” Shevchenko said. “No, you have to give it the best of you.”