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Erin Blanchfield on Valentina Shevchenko: ‘I want to be that person to dethrone her’

A perfect 3-0 UFC record is exactly what Erin Blanchfield expected, but that’s nowhere near the heights she eventually plans to reach.

The 23-year-old flyweight has quickly become one of the most talked about prospects in the sport. This past weekend at UFC Vegas 56, she added to her resume with a standing guillotine choke of J.J. Aldrich.

Being called the future of the division after just three UFC fights might seem like unnecessary pressure to put on a young fighter. But Blachfield welcomes those expectations because it’s no different than what she wants for herself.

“It’s kind of everything I expected,” Blanchfield said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I went pro at 18, so I expected to get into the UFC pretty young. I’ve had high expectations out of myself. Getting those two first wins were nice, but I really wanted that finish. I was super happy to get that finish on Saturday.

“Honestly, I feel like I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t feel like I could be champ at some point. I definitely want to improve and get better, but I know that I’ll have that strap one day.”

Slow and steady doesn’t seem to be the approach Blanchfield is taking. But she’s also realistic about the time it will take her to get into title contention. The New Jersey native knows there’s still a lot of work to do before she’s calling out reigning flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko.

“I could see it happening within the next two or three years,” Blanchfield said. “I feel like that would be the soonest, but I’m not too stressed about it. As long as I keep getting the wins in and I keep fighting and I stay healthy, it’s going to come. But if keep winning the way I am, probably in the next two or three years or so.”

At UFC 275, Shevchenko looks make her seventh consecutive defense at flyweight when she faces Taila Santos in the pay-per-view event’s co-headliner. As usual, she is an overwhelming favorite to win, and Blachfield agrees with odds that predict Bruce Buffer will shout “and still” on Saturday in Singapore.

“Santos, she’s a tough fighter and she’s pretty well rounded, but I don’t think she has anything that Valentina can’t handle,” Blanchfield said.

Since becoming flyweight champion, Shevchenko has arguably been the most dominant fighter on the entire UFC roster, and she’s already run roughshod over most of the ranked contenders in the division. For that reason, Blanchfield expects the champ will still hold the belt when she finally becomes a No. 1 contender. That’s what she wants more than anything.

“Valentina is one person [I want to fight],” she said. “I feel like she’ll still be there within the next few years because I know she doesn’t want to stop any time soon, and she always talks about that. She wants to stay champ forever but we all know that’s not possible.

“I feel like that’s one fight I definitely want to have. I want to be that person to dethrone her. I feel like dethroning Valentina to become champ would be the biggest deal. Because I feel whenever you dethrone someone that’s so dominant, it makes it that much sweeter. Kind of like what Julianna [Pena] did to Amanda [Nunes] not so long ago.”

As much as Shevchenko is her dream opponent, Blanchfield is first looking ahead to July at UFC 276, when she’ll be watching the flyweight fight between Maycee Barber and Jessica Eye. She hopes the winner will serve as her next fight.

“[Maycee Barber and Jessica Eye] got on a big card, and I want to get some fights against bigger names,” Blanchfield explained. “The girls I fought were tough, but I definitely want to start fighting people with a little bigger names to get myself out there a little bit more. I think either of those girls would be the perfect fight for me.”

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