As she was due to meet American Katlyn Chookagian for the UFC’s first in France on September 3 in Paris, Manon Fiorot will finally face Brazil’s Jessica Andrade, former champion of the straws. The French fighter, number 6 in the flyweight classification who wants to dethrone champion Valentina Shevchenko, confides to RMC Sport the consequences of this change for “a slightly riskier fight”, but for which she is showing her confidence.
Manon, you were supposed to face Katlyn Chookagian at UFC Paris on September 3rd, but your opponent will end up being Jessica Andrade. How did you react when you heard about this change?
Of course I was a little disappointed at first because we were preparing for Chookagian. I had envisioned this fight against her, it was number 1 in the rankings so it was great for me. But afterwards, at the UFC, I’m used to it. This is my third fight that happens like this, where I change my opponent. And on second thought, Jessica Andrade, that’s a name. Everyone knows her, which was not necessarily the case with Chookagian, and her style is much more explosive. For the French public and for my fans it’s a better fight.
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The reaction to this change has been very positive: the fans seem to like this fight and see it as more of a challenge…
That’s what I saw too. When the fight was announced, I could see there was a lot more agitation from the media and the fans, there was a lot more interaction with Andrade than with Chookagian. Plus, with Chookagian, we’d have it as a pre-won battle: everyone saw me win when it was still number 1 in the rankings. There I have the impression that it is more of a challenge. And I prefer.
Do you feel that for the audience, if you make it to this step, it’s a stronger message than beating Chookagian?
Yes that is it. Then, for me, not necessarily. But in the eyes of the general public, yes. Everyone knows Jessica Andrade and above all she was champion in the category below. It’s a real name.
Jessica Andrade is smaller, struggles more, do you see this challenge more technically complicated than against Chookagian?
No. Not really. In fact, his main weapon is actually his power and his struggle. Except that it works very well for its category. For the 52 kilos, it is powerful and dangerous. But for me, who fights in 57 pounds, this weapon compensates a bit. I don’t see how she can play strength with me. After, inevitably, it’s a fight a little more risky. She’s been through quite a few fights while Chookagian never had her. We know she has the power of KO and she can end a fight. She also has many submission wins. For me the most important thing is that everything she does is in strength and power. She is much less technical than for example Chookagian
It is assumed that you have already started the specific work for Chookagian. What will this change in your approach to combat?
We had a completely different game plan, we had started working on opponents the size of Chookagian. But we’re still a long way from the fight, so I can completely change the style and strategy of the fight. We still have two months to go. The sparrings have nothing to do with the one before. We sat on fairly clean people, with good English technique, movement. There the opponent is much smaller, she is 1.58 meters tall, so the game plan will change completely and we will take much smaller sparrings, which get darker, go into fights and go in. It has nothing to do. It’s more complicated to find, besides, it was easier for those who match Katlyn.
Can we expect a more tactical fight than against Chookagian?
I think it would have been more boring with Chookagian because she touches, she touches, she goes out, she moves. It might have been a good fight, but it would have been up to me to move forward and look for the knockout. It was more up to me to go get her. With Andrade it will be easier. It is she who will return and I who will oppose or return. I might as well wrestle. We don’t really have a game plan yet, but I can do anything. In fact, I think we will have to be very vigilant in the first round. She will give everything in this first round. In this first lap I may just walk around and be careful. And I’ll speed up on the second and the third.
Your coach, Aldric Cassata, told us you weren’t worried when the change was announced, that you told him: “If we want to beat Shevchenko, we have to beat Andrade”…
That is it. In fact, it doesn’t change anything. At the time, that’s true, I said to myself, “Ah yes, Andrade…” But afterwards I told myself it was okay. To defeat Valentina, you must first defeat everyone else. If I can’t beat Andrade, there’s no point fighting Valentina. This is a very good first test. Plus, since it’s already a name, it still puts a bit of pressure on it and I think it’s the perfect fight for Valentina.
This will be your first professional MMA fight in France and it will take place in front of a packed house in the famous Bercy enclosure. Do you already have that in mind?
Sure, I’m thinking about it. It is mandatory. But when I think about it, I tell myself I’m used to fighting in a room of 20,000 people. The only difference is that that’s where the audience will be with me. So it can only be more. I expect it of course. I’m already imagining it and I can’t wait.
Are you going to do mental work to prepare for this and not let your emotions catch up?
Yes of course. I’m already thinking about it. But I do that for all my fights. I always imagine what it will be like when I go home, I wonder if the audience will be with me. But I know that when the fight starts, all that, I’ll kind of forget. Unless at some point the fight gets tough, I get hit, or maybe that helps me. But once the fight starts, I don’t think about anything anymore, I’m in my fight and there can be anyone in the audience, it’s the same.
If an MMA neophyte is reading us, what can you promise him for this September 3 evening and the UFC premiere in France?
It’s going to be a very, very big night. There are some of Europe’s best fighters, Ciryl Gane, in the main event at heavyweight. And on my side, of course, I will try to make a spectacular fight and finish the fight. That is what I want.