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Erin Blanchfield happy to freshen up ‘recycled’ bantamweight top 5, become youngest female UFC champ

UFC 288 Ceremonial Weigh-in Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Erin Blanchfield likes the idea of making history.

The women’s Bantamweight division is now without a champion in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) after Amanda Nunes’ recent unanimous decision title defense against Irene Aldana at UFC 289. The long-reigning all-time great and dual-division titleholder, Nunes, announced her retirement immediately after the victory, leading to two UFC titles becoming vacant.

Originally, UFC 289 was set to see Nunes and the former champion, Julianna Pena, square off in a trilogy affair. Unfortunately for Pena, she suffered a rib injury that forced her out of the bout. Pena now is expected to be one-half of the eventual vacant title tilt, and top women’s Flyweight contender, Blanchfield, is “super interested” in being her dance partner.

“I feel like in the Bantamweight division those top five names, top 10 maybe are kind of like recycled names or people that have been around for a while,” Blanchfield told MMA Fighting. “They’re very good girls, but they’ve been the same. Bantamweight hasn’t had as many prospects come up as the Flyweight division has, and I think throwing my name in there and having me fight for a 135-pound title is definitely going to get a lot of eyes on it.

“People will be interested to see that fight, and it could be on a pay-per-view card, main or co-main, it will definitely get a lot more eyes on it than a lot of the girls that have already been seen,” she concluded.

Sitting at No. 4 in the promotion’s official 125-pound rankings, Blanchfield makes for a logical next title challenger ... after Valentina Shevchenko attempts to secure redemption against Alexa Grasso. Grasso’s March 2023 upset via fourth round face crank (watch highlights) set the pair up for an immediate rematch at a date to be determined, leaving the rest of the division watching and waiting.

A fight at Bantamweight would be the first in the 24-year-old Blanchfield’s 12-fight career (11-1). A title win at any weight before mid-2024 would be a historic one, breaking the former Strawweight champion, Rose Namajunas’, youth record of 25.

“I don’t think there’s anything crazy about her style,” Blanchfield said. “I know Valentina fought her and she arm barred her a while ago. She’s a tough fighter but I don’t think there’s anything I would be too nervous about. I feel like I could go and finish that fight.

“If I have the Julianna fight, beat her, I’d be the youngest female UFC champ I believe,” she continued. “Then go back down to Flyweight, win that belt, I’d definitely be the youngest double champ. There’s a lot of upsides to it and it’s definitely something I would be interested in.”

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