It would be easy to say that just a few days ago, Erin Blanchfield was just your average eighteen-year-old woman. Easy, but untrue. The reality is that there’s nothing “average” about a teenage purple belt with the ability to come out ahead of established and accomplished black belts like Talita Alencar and Pati Fontes in a high-profile competition. But now that Blanchfield has officially become the women’s EBI Flyweight Champion after winning it all at EBI 12, the jiu-jitsu world has learned what she and her teammates have known all along: this is not someone you should underestimate.
Blanchfield isn’t naive; she knew that she wasn’t necessarily expected to win in such an elite pool of grapplers. But even though she was considered, as she put it, “a huge underdog” at EBI 12, she didn’t let anyone else’s opinions of her dictate her aspirations or expectations for herself. “I never felt like I was in over my head,” she says. “I always felt like I had the ability, skill, and proper training to compete at this level.”
It doesn’t hurt that Blanchfield, who trains at the Renzo Gracie affiliate Silver Fox Academy, has spent most of her life on the mats. She’s been training in both grappling and striking since she was just seven years old, and now that she’s conquered one of the biggest stages in jiu-jitsu, she’s looking forward to using all of her martial arts skills to win big for another massive promotion: the UFC. She’s looking forward to getting into MMA, and becoming a UFC champion is her “main aspiration for the future.”
For now, though, she’s taking at least a few moments to savor her big win and everything that comes with it. “The most satisfying part of this experience was the exposure it gave me to the jiu-jitsu/MMA world. The $10k didn’t hurt either.” Blanchfield is also aware of just how big her time in the spotlight is not only for her, but for female jiu-jitsu as a whole.
“[A female EBI division] gives us a platform to display our art as well as get paid. I would love to see more submission-only tournaments with large payoffs for women so we can continue competing in our sport as well as support ourselves,” she says.
For those women who are hoping to make their way up the ladder of grappling success as Blanchfield and her opponents have, this young champ has some solid words of advice:
Work hard, find your game, and perfect it. Not every technique that you are taught will fit smoothly into your game, but always be open to new ideas and strategies. Know that injuries are part of jiu-jitsu and it’s important to not let injuries discourage you. Allow your body to heal then get right back to training. It’s all about consistency in training and technique development.
Being as this is coming from a lifelong grappler who defied the odds to become the first ever EBI Female Flyweight Champion, it’s a safe bet that her advice is worth heeding.