LAS VEGAS – Jennifer Maia’s hope has become a reality.

At UFC on ESPN+ 31 on Saturday, Maia (18-6-1 MMA, 3-2 UFC) defeated Joanne Calderwood by first-round armbar submission. Calderwood was expected to challenge women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko – had she won.

When Maia took to the podium at a post-fight news conference, she didn’t have an answer to the question of whether or not she’d be next in line for the champion. However, minutes later, UFC president Dana White cleared the air.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” White said. “That’s the fight. Listen, I have a lot of respect for JoJo. She’s been working hard, taking her career very seriously. She’s been back on track since she moved to Vegas. Jennifer looked damn good tonight. Yeah, it makes sense for her and Valentina to fight.”

Since shortly after her most recent fight in February, Shevchenko has been dealing with injuries. While White did not give a timeline for the fight, he said he hopes to book it as soon as possible.

Shevchenko (19-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) has looked largely unbeatable in her UFC career to date. With the exceptions of 2016 and 2017 losses to current UFC women’s bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes, Shevchenko has not lost in the promotion.

Maia said she understands the challenge in front of her. When asked about her gameplan for a potential title fight, Maia voiced confidence without revealing any specifics.

“Yeah, that’s a hard question,” Maia said. “(Shevchenko) is very good everywhere. We’re going to find out when we fight. I’m very good. I’m feeling ready. I want to fight now.”

While she admitted she thought Calderwood slightly underestimated her, Maia said she doesn’t expect Shevchenko to make the same mistake.

“I think JoJo maybe underestimated me a little bit,” Maia said. “She had the fight for the title and then she got a short-notice (fight against me) in two weeks. I think she did underestimate me a little bit, but I think Valentina is a smarter fighter. I know she’s the champion. I think she understands me very well. I don’t think she wants to underestimate me.”

UFC on ESPN+ 31 took place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The card streamed on ESPN+.