Valentina Shevchenko was such a dominant UFC champion, the flyweight division once felt as if it lacked contenders. But the timing of Alexa Grasso’s championship upset coincided with a sudden burst of new challengers at 125 pounds.
Grasso and Shevchenko are set to rematch in the main event of Noche UFC on Sept. 16 in Las Vegas after Grasso took the title via fourth-round submission this past March. Grasso remains focused on the task ahead, but sees no easier challenge waiting for her afterward.
“The 125 [division] has a long list of fighters that could be the contenders,” Grasso said recently on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “We also have the new addition, Rose Namajunas. She’s going to fight the No. 1 [contender], so the winner of this fight could be the next. Erin [Blanchfield] is also coming strong.
“The best fight might be the next contender.”
Namajunas, a former two-time UFC strawweight champion, moves up to flyweight to face top-ranked Manon Fiorot this Saturday at UFC Paris. Erin Blanchfield, a 24-year-old prospect who already owned decisive wins over Jessica Andrade and Molly McCann, improved her UFC record to 6-0 this past weekend with a hard-fought victory over Taila Santos at UFC Singapore.
“Every one of those has their own strength, it’s a different fight, but Rose clearly has history,” Grasso said. “She was the strawweight champion and I would like to fight her, of course. I respect her run, it was very strong. She has conquered important things, so it could be her. But it could be Erin, too. She’s very young, has great jiu-jitsu game.
“Manon Fiorot is strong too, and she has great kicks. They all have important and different things. It’s hard. I’m very competitive, so [I’ll fight] any of them.”
Namajunas has never fought at 125 pounds before, but has found success in the past against women that were very competitive in the flyweight weight class, such as Jessica Andrade and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Grasso made that exact move in 2020 after losing to Carla Esparza, choosing to add more 10 pounds after going 11-3 as a strawweight.
Grasso has won five straight fights since, including finishes of Shevchenko and Joanne Wood.
“Speaking from my own experience, I loved the transition from 115 to 125,” Grasso said. “When you’re focused in training, making 125 after 115 is very easy. It could be a big surprise.”