LONDON – Jennifer Maia is excited to see fresh blood at the top of the UFC women’s flyweight division after Alexa Grasso’s title upset of Valentina Shevchenko earlier this month.
That said, former title challenger Maia (20-9-1 MMA, 5-5 UFC) doesn’t think the new champion represents the top fighter in the weight class as she enters a key bout with Casey O’Neill (9-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) on Saturday at UFC 286. The event takes place at The O2 in London with a main card that airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNews and ESPN+.
“I was very happy with Grasso’s win,” Maia told MMA Junkie and other reporters through an interpreter at UFC 286 media day on Wednesday. “It shakes things up even though we still believe Valentina’s the very best one in the weight class.”
Maia thinks the turnover of the belt gives a boost of motivation for fighters like herself, who are trying to climb the ranks into another opportunity to compete for gold.
The matchup with O’Neill is a key opportunity for the Brazilian, who will serve as the biggest challenge to date for the undefeated O’Neill. She intends to find out how good she really is.
“I think the biggest difference is she’s a well-rounded fighter,” Maia said. “She can stand, she can grapple – she’s very, very dedicated to her craft. But the biggest difference is I have a lot more experience fighting great fighters than she does, and that’s going to play a part.
“Beating her would give me two victories in a row, which regardless still puts me close to go up in the rankings and have another title shot.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 286.
Jennifer Maia: Valentina Shevchenko still ‘very best’ despite UFC title loss to Alexa Grasso