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PhotoCred: UFC.com (Zac Pacleb)

Erin Blanchfield embraces high expectations on ascent to flyweight’s peak

Most parents may want their children to get into sports like soccer or basketball when they’re young – something less-taxing but helpful to release all the pent-up energy. For the Blanchfield family, self-defense seemed most appropriate.

Currently beginning her tenure in the UFC 125-pound flyweight division is the 22-year old Elmwood Park, New Jersey native in Erin Blanchfield. A lifelong mixed martial artist at this stage, Blanchfield’s first involvement with athletics came when attending a dance school.

Things were fine at first for the now 7-1 professional face-puncher, but the desire for a more competitive hobby quickly blossomed. Thus leading Blanchfield’s mother to put her in Jiu-jitsu at age seven.

“She never trained herself, actually,” Blanchfield told MyMMANews. “She just wanted me and my brother to be able to defend ourselves. My dad did a little boxing and stuff growing up so he was into it, too. I think at the time I had just quit dancing so I didn’t really have any other sports I was doing or anything else I was really interested in. My brother was training already because my mom put him in super young – he was only four so he just went in like, ‘Okay, whatever mom says,’ and he liked it.

“So I went to watch him and they offered me an introductory class and I took it and once I started training I just fell in love with it right away.”

Blanchfield’s Jiu-jitsu journey eventually bled into other martial arts such as kickboxing where she began molding everything into one. By the time she was 17, MMA was firmly in her sights as the destination she was aiming for.

Continually getting her reps in grappling competitions, the Renzo Gracie Academy standout eventually found herself involved in the Eddie Bravo Invitational – a no-gi submission-only grappling tournament. Blanchfield went on to win it all and establish herself as a future force whether in the Jiu-jitsu or MMA world. At 21, she earned her black belt for her great submission skillset.

“That was the first big competition I’d ever done,” Blanchfield reflected. “I remember the way you had to get into it, when he (Bravo) first posted it, it was like whoever got the most tags will get in. I didn’t have any following at the time but I knew Eddie because I had family out in California so whenever I went to visit them I’d go train at his gym. So I just messaged him on Facebook and asked if I could get into it. I think I was still 17 but I was gonna be 18 by the time it happened, and he was like, ‘Yeah, sure. I’ll put you in.’

“It was a great experience. What was super cool was Bruce Buffer was at it, too. So I got to hear him announce my name, and the level of competition was super high but I feel, I don’t know, at the time I didn’t really care. I already knew what I needed to do. I trained with my coaches and everything, and I felt confident in what I needed to do so I was ready to go against anyone. It was just a super cool experience to be on [UFC] Fight Pass and I think that kind of got my recognition started when I went into MMA right after.”

Successfully debuting with a first-round TKO in March 2018 for Cage Fury Fighting Championships, Blanchfield would thereafter join premier all-women’s promotion Invicta FC.

Several of the sport’s greatest fighters have fought their way through the Invicta cage and “Cold Blooded” was granted the opportunity on five occasions that saw her go 4-1. A title shot was earned directly before arriving in the UFC, however, Blanchfield missed out on becoming a champion due to her opponent testing positive with COVID-19.

To look at the break positively, the year away from competition allowed for Blanchfield to train and progress without any fight-prep stresses.

“I think it was super important because I had two wins over UFC fighters already, my one loss was to a UFC fighter so I was fighting super-high caliber fighters already in Invicta,” she said. “That was a big reason why I wanted to go there because I knew they had high-level competition and I knew that I would get better fighting those girls. So I feel like that was super beneficial for my career and gave me a lot of confidence going into the UFC.”

Erin-Blanchfield
PhotoCred: Instagram – @blanchfield_mma

It’s been a quick but prosperous journey for Erin Blanchfield these past three years but with more time comes more experiences.

The UFC signing was originally for a short-notice bout as Blanchfield was set to fill in for Bea Malecki in a 135-pound bantamweight clash against Norma Dumont. The fight would have been the New Jersey native’s first outside of the flyweight division but in the end, it never ended up happening as Dumont missed weight by three and a half pounds.

Rebooked to debut in September, this time at flyweight, Blanchfield was matched with Dana White’s Contender Series winner, Sarah Alpar. Returning from a rough debut against Jessica-Rose Clark, Alpar’s sophomore appearance didn’t go much better.

The ever-evolving Blanchfield continues to grow in and out of the cage in MMA as she’s also begun dabbling in commentary. In the UFC debut, she beat her opposition from pillar to post for the entirety of their three-round contest only to give herself some harsh critique.

Despite her feelings, Blanchfield showed off striking improvements behind her aggressive pressure that ultimately got things where she wanted letting those unfamiliar with her know that she’s always on point when hitting the mat. All three judges gave the 22-year old BJJ star a 10-8 score in at least one of the rounds with two awarding her two for the dominant effort.

“I try not to focus on my opponent too much, I try to just focus on myself,” Blanchfield said. “Because you never know what’s going to happen. I didn’t have that fight with Maycee that I got into then she pulled out, now I’m fighting Maverick. I feel like that’s happened a few times in my career because even my last Invicta fight, my opponent changed like two weeks out. So it’s been something in my career that’s happened quite a bit and I’ve learned how to handle it. I go over a few thing to kind of deal with their particular style, but most of the things I’m drilling or going over is for me just to improve my skillset so I don’t have to care too much who I’m fighting.

“I think initially, I was kind of bummed about it which is kind of funny because I noticed that too when I was interviewing people. When they didn’t finish their match, even when they had a great match and did fantastic, they were bummed they didn’t get it and it was funny to see it from the other perspective. Because I would tell them, ‘No, you did a great job. I know you didn’t get the finish.’ But in retrospect, it was a really good experience. I mean, I feel like it was nice to get those three rounds in the UFC already. I was able to watch it and go over a lot of things, maybe little mistakes, little adjustments I could have made to maybe get that finish for the next fight. But yeah, I feel it was a great experience and I’m excited for this next one to have a full crowd and everything.”

Blanchfield enters the UFC right at a time where she contributes to the new wave of young talent in the 125-pound division. Whether from Invicta or elsewhere, a much-needed influx has begun.

Not yet out of the woods when it comes to opponent changes, Blanchfield signed on the dotted line for her second appearance as what would have been a short-notice opportunity. With Montana De La Rosa out of her UFC 269 bout with Maycee Barber, Elmwood Park’s finest came in to save the day – only for Barber to end up pulled.

Therefore leading to fellow Invicta alum, Miranda Maverick stepping in. A win on Dec. 11 would only increase the speed of Blanchfield’s progression and trajectory. For her, she doesn’t see it as “too much too soon” and embraces the expectations that have started forming within the community.

Erin-Blanchfield
PhotoCred: Instagram – @blanchfield_mma

“Honestly, not really,” Blanchfield responded when asked if she thinks things are happening too fast in her MMA career. “I’ve been pro for almost four years now. I guess they might think it’s quick because of my age and stuff like that, but I’ve put so much time into this sport and I’ve been consistent and I know which each fight means for the next step in my career so I kinda knew when I got that fight with Maycee I’d definitely be ranked when I beat her.

“Even with Maverick, I think she was ranked like 13 or 14 when she fought Maycee. But the rankings change every week so she might have got booted out of it now but if I beat her, I can get ranked too. I don’t think it’s been that quick. I’ve taken every step of the way and I’m ready for it so I’m excited.

“I don’t mind it at all. I don’t feel that pressure, I like that people think that,” she added. “I put in the fights to deserve recognition like that. What’re you here for if you don’t want that? I want to be here and I kind of want that expectation out of myself. I expect it out of myself and I like that other people expect it out of me, too. But it’s not a big pressure thing for me. It doesn’t bother me, I kind of like it.”

With life being injected into flyweight still comes uncertainty. Sitting atop the throne looking down a sea of challengers who have yet to pose any real threat is Valentina Shevchenko.

If there is one thing that is too soon for Blanchfield, it’s easy to agree that it would be thoughts of battling Shevchenko in the immediate future. But don’t be mistaken, that’s the ultimate goal for the hungry up and comer.

Who knows, maybe by the time an eventual fight was to happen, all it may have took was someone a little “Cold Blooded” to dodge “The Bullet.”

“I definitely want to fight Valentina one day,” Blanchfield expressed. “I’d love to fight her and I feel like she will be there. I watched her Joe Rogan podcast and it doesn’t seem like she’s gonna be leaving any time soon. She wants to keep fighting which I think is great, I want to fight her one day for sure, and I think she’ll still be there so we’ll see when it happens.”

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