Erin Blanchfield: Aiming To Lead The Next Generation of Women's MMA

By Jason Burgos Nov 15, 2018
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Here is a great clip of outstanding grappling and MMA athlete Erin Blanchfield in training at RGA. Ms Blanchfield first started coming to train with the squad in the blue basement from Silver Fox academy in New Jersey and wanted to prepare for an EBI grappling show. She was just eighteen at the time and entered EBI 12 female flyweights as an unknown among several world champions. She stunned everyone by winning the event - the youngest ever to do so. Her primary interest however, is MMA where she is unbeaten and signed with Invicta. On November 16 she fights again. Here she is going through her MMA training and grappling training in NYC. It’s amazing to see her work ethic in operation every day. She comes all the way from New Jersey to toil in two sports every day. Keep up with this amazing young woman as she climbs to the top @blanchfield_mma and exhibits daily the purposeful action that over time produces champions and makes dreams reality. Video by @kahl_one

A post shared by John Danaher (@danaherjohn) on Oct 25, 2018 at 5:42am PDT



Youth must be served, and on Nov. 16, Invicta FC 32 will do just that, as it features 19-year-old blue-chip prospect Erin Blanchfield in her third professional MMA bout.

Blanchfield surprised the grappling world and drew the attention of fans last summer by winning the Eddie Bravo Invitational 12 as an 18 year-old purple belt. The event, which saw Bellator MMA 125-pound champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane win a title at flyweight, was full of talented grapplers, and Blanchfield was an afterthought for most analysts of the sport. Her surprising run to the title made some in the MMA media ponder an eventual crossover. However, Blanchfield was way ahead of them, and had been planning a career in MMA before she was even a teenager.

“I wanted to be an MMA fighter since I was 12 years old,” Blanchfield told Sherdog.com.

Blanchfield has been a student of martial arts since the age of six, after taking an introductory class in no-gi Brazilian jiu-jitsu. She would eventually add in kickboxing and became hooked on the two combat sports. Blanchfield’s growth as a grappler and kickboxer would coincide with her newfound love for mixed martial arts. In addition to female fighters such as Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate building their brands within the industry, their competitive success proved inspirational to her.

“They were like top-level women fighters that were making money they could live on,” Blanchfield said. The notion spawned an idea in her young mind that she is living out today.

“When I was 12 and competing [in] kickboxing and grappling tournaments, I was like, ‘I want to do MMA when I’m 18 and can fight,’” she said.

As a youth, Blanchfield trained at a Tiger Schulmann-affiliated gym and received an early taste of what it takes to be a professional fighter, as UFC combatants Jimmie Rivera and Shane Burgos were some of her instructors. She would eventually transition to training at Silver Fox BJJ in Saddlebrook, New Jersey. The school is an affiliate of the Renzo Gracie Academy, which is located in Manhattan, New York.

Due to this connection, she would frequent the Gracie Academy on occasion during her high school years, and often go to classes taught by one of the top grappling coaches in the sport, John Danaher. Once high school ended, she made the gym her training hub in the lead-up to the EBI tournament. Blanchfield’s drive to improve during that time, and surprise tournament win, earned the respect of her gym mates as well as Danaher who said in an Instagram post, “It’s amazing to see her work ethic in operation every day. She comes all the way from New Jersey to toil in two sports every day. Keep up with this amazing young woman as she climbs to the top, and exhibits daily the purposeful action that over time produces champions and makes dreams reality.”

There is no better example of Blanchfield’s work ethic than in the effort she puts in to live dual lives as a fighter and as a student at Montclair State University. It is a difficult balancing act, yet she makes it work.

“I’m able to change my schedule according to my training. I do try to avoid taking fights right around finals, because I can’t miss finals or I’m going to fail the class,” Blanchfield said with a laugh. “It’s hard, but it’s definitely worth it to be able to pursue my goals of fighting and getting a degree.”

Just before this semester’s finals, Blanchfield will meet fellow 19 year-old up-and-comer Kay Hansen at Invicta FC’s debut foray into the state of Oklahoma. The 3-1 Hansen is coming off of back-to-back stoppage victories via ground-and-pound. While Blanchfield respects her opponent and considers her a well-rounded fighter with strong wrestling, she would not advise Hansen to try to take her to the ground. “I don’t think it would be smart for her to try and take me down, but if she does it I don’t mind,” Blanchfield said.

If Hansen avoids testing the EBI winner’s grappling acumen, and instead aims for a striking battle, Blanchfield is just fine with that too. “I knew a lot of people weren’t going to believe that I had any striking,” Blanchfield said. “Because after the EBI, everyone thought I was this jitsu person and I had no striking. But I don’t think a lot of people realized how long I had been training striking. I feel comfortable wherever this fight goes.”

This will be Blanchfield’s second appearance inside an Invicta cage, having earned a split-decision win over Brittney Cloudy at Invicta 30. Competing for a notable organization so early in her career was a surprise for the 19-year-old. However, despite it not being the plan, the chance to fight for the preeminent female-driven MMA promotion in the world was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

“My idea was to have a few more fights in regional organizations, but once they were interested I thought, ‘there’s no better place for female MMA fighters,’” Blanchfield said. With so many promotions spotlighting women’s MMA, she understands the improved opportunities she has as a female fighter during this boom period.

“I feel like women are on the rise in MMA,” Blanchfield said. “There’s not as many of us, so maybe you won’t see many female fights on a UFC card, but there are still females headlining [and] just as popular as the male fighters.”

As the female side of the sport continues to grow, Blanchfield hopes to be a part of the next wave of fighters that takes the perception of women’s MMA to new heights. “A lot of girls were one discipline or the other [in previous generations]. But the next generation are going to be fighters that have been training everything since they were kids. So, I feel like you’re going to see a lot more well-rounded fighters,” Blanchfield said.

If the success continues, the spotlight on Blanchfield will only grow brighter, and that is exactly what she wants. “I definitely enjoy [receiving more attention for my success],” she said. “This was always the plan. I wanted to get into MMA and make a bang quick,” Blachfield said. She also hopes to influence the next generation of women fighters, just as Rousey and Tate did before her.

“I love fighting and seeing the young girls look up to me, and wanting to be like me one day,” she said. “It’s great.”

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