Barely three months removed from her 24th birthday, Erin Blanchfield knows she has plenty of time to become a UFC champion.
After steamrolling Jessica Andrade in her most recent performance, Blanchfield played the waiting game to see what would come next, especially with the possibility that a title fight could be on the horizon. But then Alexa Grasso pulled off a massive upset to beat Valentina Shevchenko and claim the UFC flyweight title, spoiling Blanchfield’s plans once the promotion moved quickly to book an immediate rematch.
Rather than sulk or sit on the sidelines and wait, Blanchfield happily accepted a fight against Taila Santos at UFC Singapore instead. A win could easily cement her as the No. 1 contender at flyweight, but even a win over Santos may not stop Blanchfield from staying busy and taking another fight, because she knows it’s a matter of when, not if, she eventually becomes a UFC champion.
“You never know what’s going to happen, and I’d rather fight instead of waiting for something, especially if it’s a long period of time,” Blanchfield told MMA Fighting. “I’d like to have my full camp and everything, but I know sometimes title fights can take a while to come around. If [Grasso and Shevchenko] fight five rounds [in September] and they’re both beat up, it might be a while before they fight again.”
Saturday’s event is actually the second time Blanchfield was scheduled to face Santos. The Brazilian previously dropped out of their first booking back in February after Santos’ coaches weren’t able to obtain visas in time to travel to the United States.
While there were some initial worries for Blanchfield about booking the fight a second time, she was also fairly confident Santos wouldn’t pull out again.
“I definitely think she’s going to show up this time, especially since it’s been so long since she fought,” Blanchfield said. “If she wants to stay relevant, she should show up.”
If she’s successful in her bid to beat Santos on Saturday, Blanchfield will likely turn her attention to another marquee flyweight fight taking place one week later when ex-UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas makes her debut at 125 pounds against Manon Fiorot at UFC Paris.
Namajunas opting to test herself at flyweight was a decision that Blanchfield didn’t totally understand, but she’s nonetheless curious to see how “Thug Rose” adapts to her new home.
“I was definitely surprised when I saw Rose come up,” Blanchfield said. “I know she talked about it. We have seen people have success coming up, like obviously Alexa came up from 115, but I know Alexa also missed weight at 115 and she was struggling to make weight. That kind of made sense that she moved up because she’s obviously still cutting weight to make 125 and 115 was kind of becoming impossible. Where, with someone like Rose, it seemed like 115 was easy. She was never someone who struggled on the scale, someone that missed weight. So her coming up doesn’t really make sense to me.
“I don’t know if she has the size. Like Alexa kind of grew into that size, where, I don’t know if Rose really has. I know she hasn’t fought in a while so maybe she was able to add some muscle, but I don’t know if she’s going to look or feel like a natural 125er if 115 was something she always made, and she’s already older and it was relatively easy for her to make [weight].”
When it comes to the title rematch happening a few weeks later at Noche UFC, Blanchfield remains undecided on whether Grasso can remain champion or if Shevchenko will get her revenge, but the results in that fight will certainly affect the direction of the flyweight division moving forward.
“I’m completely torn,” Blanchfield said. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I could see either girl winning. [Shevchenko] was definitely winning [the first fight]. It was a hard win, she was taking her down and trying to hold her. It definitely wasn’t easy. That’s why I know maybe Alexa could adjust and do better, but so can Valentina. It could just be the day.”
All of these unknowns play at least some part in Blanchfield’s willingness to continue fighting the next person in line rather than waiting for a title shot that may or may not happen any time soon.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen with the title,” Blanchfield said. “Valentina could win and then they do a trilogy, and I win my fight and whoever wins [between Fiorot and Namajunas] fight each other in the meantime. There’s so many possibilities, and if I’ve learned anything from fighting, you have absolutely no idea what’s next.
“I’m going to keep proving that I deserve that title every single fight. I feel like that’s my biggest focus.”