To Wait or To Fight: What should Manon Fiorot do after UFC Atlantic City win?

To Wait or To Fight: What should Manon Fiorot do after UFC Atlantic City win?

Manon Fiorot was overjoyed on Saturday night, and how could she not be? She put together an incredibly dominant performance against one of the top talents at flyweight, making her the biggest name at 125 pounds who has never fought for a title.

While Fiorot is riding high after her victory over Erin Blanchfield, that happiness might soon turn into frustration. The 34-year-old French talent is one of the most qualified names for a flyweight title shot, but it’s unclear when that opportunity will ever arrive.

Generous estimates have placed a potential fight against the flyweight champ around early 2025. Yes, seriously. The clogged-up timeline of the flyweight title picture in the division has put Manon Fiorot—and the UFC—in a tough position: Do they bench the French contender for what could be nine or more months, or do they make her defend her contender spot in another high-profile fight? Let’s assume the role of the UFC and Manon Fiorot and figure out what to do next.

Why The Wait?

Alexa Grasso faces off with Valentina Shevchenko ahead of The Ultimate Fighter 32 this summer

Before we get into Fiorot’s future, it’s worth highlighting why Fiorot would have to wait so long for a title shot. Just recently, UFC made the decision that current champ Alexa Grasso and former titleholder Valentina Shevchenko will face off in a trilogy bout. That’s all fine and good, but there’s a catch: They’ll meet after coaching the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter.

The show is scheduled to begin in early June and likely run for 12 weeks. That puts a potential third fight between Grasso and Shevchenko in September at the earliest, matching them up around a year after they previously met.

It’s unclear how much time off the winning fighter will need afterward. It could be a quick turnaround or a long layoff. But if we just assume it will be around three months, that puts Manon Fiorot either on the last card of 2024 or somewhere next year.

Could the UFC be blamed? It’s possible, but also hard to tell. Both Shevchenko and Grasso underwent hand surgery last fall after their UFC Noche bout. We don’t know much about if they are fully healed up, or if the delay in their fight is solely due to The Ultimate Fighter. While there’s a chance that UFC is entirely to blame for the fight’s delay, it’s worth remembering that there are other possibilities on the table as well.

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As demonstrated by last season—coached by Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler—you don’t need a champion and challenger in the mentor role. You can just grab any two notable UFC fighters and put them on the show, making the decision to use Grasso and Shevchenko potentially questionable.

If the fight is truly being shelved solely due to the reality TV show, it’s a bad look on the UFC. Dayne Fox perfectly illuminated this point in an article earlier this week: “It appears the UFC would rather kill any potential momentum for a relic of the past,” he wrote.

The reason for the hold-up at flyweight is hard to determine. But it has been decided and is final. It’s now time to discuss what to do next.

Should Manon Fiorot Sit Out?

Joanne Calderwood
A cautionary tale from the past | Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

Fiorot made it clear on Saturday night that she wants a title fight next: “I’m ready no matter what, I want my title shot,” she said through an interpreter. But she’ll need to be on the sidelines for a while if that’s the case.

We have seen scenarios in the past where an expected challenger lost out on a fight by staying active. When Shevchenko pulled out of her June 2020 booking against Joanne Wood due to injury, Wood fought Jennifer Maia two months later. A first-round submission win went the way of Maia and, you guessed it, she ended up getting that fight against Shevchenko instead of Wood.

It’s not completely easy to compare the previous case to Fiorot’s position. Fiorot will have an even longer wait than what Wood was up against, and she is certainly also more qualified in this scenario as well. While Manon Fiorot might have to sit out for a long time, there’s a really strong case for her putting her patience to the test and getting her rightful shot against the champ.

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It’s hard to disagree with the decision for Fiorot to wait if that’s what she ends up doing, but she might also want to fight. It wouldn’t be wild if Fiorot decided to fight again. It’s a payday, after all. Don’t compete? Don’t get paid. That alone is incentive for some to got another matchup as soon as possible. We know that other people would take another fight if in Manon Fiorot’s position. If Erin Blanchfield were to win on Saturday, we would be looking at a situation where she would likely be competing again before the flyweight title fight, as outlined in a recent interview.

If She Were To Fight…

At the end of the day, I want Fiorot to choose her fate. I only want to see Fiorot in another fight if she truly wants to. Considering how many high-stakes bouts she has won in the division, it’s simply unfair at the moment to insist that she needs to defend her position. It’s not her fault that the title picture is moving so slowly. But let’s say she does want to, what should they do?

I would like to see Fiorot rewarded with an interim title bout if she does fight again before an opportunity at either Shevchenko or Grasso. If she fought fourth-ranked Maycee Barber for the belt, I wouldn’t be against that. Barber, quite honestly, isn’t as qualified as Fiorot or even Blanchfield. While she has beaten names like Katlyn Cerminara and Jessica Eye, it feels like her record just isn’t as strong. But after Blanchfield’s loss on Saturday, a fight between Barber and Manon Fiorot is the new top fight to make outside of the main title picture. If Manon Fiorot wants to fight again, that’s the best match you can make for her.

Fiorot deserves a big matchup next, even if she can’t get a shot at the undisputed title. An interim belt, even though it doesn’t guarantee anything per se, would make the statement that she is undoubtedly who should be facing the top name next. Any other potential matchup for Manon Fiorot would simply be giving her a lower-ranked talent to keep her busy.

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The Verdict?

The wait may be long, and the timeline is uncertain. But as it stands right now, it feels like the right move for Manon Fiorot, and the right decision to make for the UFC is to let the French contender wait and then eventually be rewarded the fight she undoubtedly deserves. There are certainly options for her if she wants to stay active, but those opportunities are high-risk. She has done more than enough for a shot, and definitely more than some title challengers from the era where Shevchenko was knocking down two names a year. The wait currently seems worthwhile for Fiorot.

UFC should realize that Manon Fiorot as a title challenger can provide for another big event in France. The MMA market is red hot in the country, as demonstrated by the Cedric Doumbe-headlined PFL card recently. They can try to push into the market the same way they did with a Ciryl Gane title campaign a couple of years back. If Manon Fiorot is willing to wait and UFC is interested in keeping her in a contender position, this feels like it could be a win for all parties involved. 

There are so many ways that this could go. A year from now, Manon Fiorot might be the UFC flyweight champion. Or, she might be out of the title picture after losing a fight she took to stay active. There’s also a possibility that she could still be waiting for her shot against the top of the weight class. It’s challenging currently to figure out what path is the right one for her to take. We’ve predicted what might be the best idea, and we’ll soon see if that was the right choice.