Joanne Calderwood and the challenge of training for Valentina Shevchenko in uncertain times
Coach John Wood knows a thing or two about big upsets.
The coronavirus pandemic has postponed three events through April 11, and with the promotion scrambling for a location for UFC 249 on April 18, Wood is unsure if they make it to the fight. Good thing is that Wood is not only Calderwood’s head coach but her fiancé, and the two live together, which has definitely facilitated their preparation.
“We are definitely not confident about having a set date for any upcoming fight, including ‘JoJo’s’,” Wood told MMA Junkie. “My guess is that it will be pushed back a month or two. As far the preparation goes, we are in a very fortunate situation that I’m her coach, and we live together, so it makes it much more convenient in a time like this. We set up a full gym in our house for strength and condition, and we also have a full mat set up if we go on full lockdown.
“Right now we are able to go to the closed gym where it’s just her and I and sometimes one other partner who’s also taking the quarantine very serious, and we’ve been drilling in the cage and actually getting some really good work. The fight is a ways away, so we aren’t gonna get too crazy yet, but just focusing on really sharpening things up and putting the best JoJo you’ve ever seen inside that cage.”
Beating Shevchenko has proven to be a tall order for all flyweights on the roster so far, with “Bullet” 5-0 since moving down to 125 pounds, which includes three title defenses. But Wood relishes the underdog role.
It’s something he experienced when he helped Roxanne Modaffer pull off a huge upset by knocking off previously unbeaten Maycee Barber at UFC 246.
“In my mind, Valentina is pound for pound one of the best fighters out there right now, man or woman,” Wood said. “There is no glaring weakness that she presents, but there are a lot of ‘little things’ that I’m seeing in different fights of hers that can be exposed. Now the trick is exposing multiple of those ‘little things’ in a single fight, which she has not allowed to this point.
“JoJo will be ready to take this fight wherever it goes, standing or on the ground. She will be ready for a five-round war. JoJo is constantly improving her game every day and one of the most dedicated and hardest working people that I’ve ever been around. We know we will be massive underdogs in this fight, but that is a role I’m used to as a coach, and I actually like it. I love when someone tells me we have no chance. I love a challenge and so does JoJo, and I can tell you one thing: She will be leaving that cage a UFC champion.”
For Wood, the concern also lies with the big stable of fighters in his gym, where most of them have been hit hard during this global pandemic.
“It’s been an extremely difficult few weeks for everyone and the world, but our profession out of all sports has taken one of the hardest hits,” Wood said. “I have around 40 to 50 fighters on the roster, with a good portion of them booked, and every single one of those fights has been postponed or canceled.
“And as you know, MMA is one of the lowest paid sports out there, and most of these guys live fight to fight while working other jobs if they are not in the UFC or a bigger show. A lot of guys have lost their jobs and are looking to have to move back in with their parents just to survive. It’s terrible right now.”