Manon Fiorot fully understands the stakes of her fight against Katlyn Chookagian at UFC 280: Oliveira vs Makhachev. The French upstart embarked on a steep climb up the flyweight division when she debuted in January 2020, racking up a pair of finishes and four wins over her first 14 months on the roster. A knee injury slowed her momentum ever so slightly and kept her out of the first UFC card in Paris, but as she returns to Abu Dhabi for the first time since her first UFC bout, she has a clear message she hopes to send when she steps into the Octagon on October 22.
“People will think I’m the next champion,” Fiorot told UFC.com.
Although the 9-1 Fiorot steamrolled her first two opponents, she struggled to put the durable Marya Bueno Silva away and instead took a clean sweep of the scorecards for a unanimous decision. Fiorot turned in a measured, if not frustrated, effort in a fight that was pushed due to COVID-19 protocols, but the effort she delivered in her next bout solidified her as a contender to watch.
Fighting former flyweight title challenger Jennifer Maia in Columbus, Ohio, Fiorot controlled nearly every moment of the fight and displayed a well-rounded game as she picked up another unanimous decision. For those keeping score, Fiorot hasn’t lost a round through eight frames.
Her performance against Maia even startled “The Beast” herself, who figured she was in for a tough night against her most credentialed opponent yet. Instead, she realized early that she could cruise to another clean sweep on the scorecards.
MORE MANON: Fiorot UFC 280 Photo Gallery
“Jennifer Maia was my first big challenge,” she said. “I knew that now I can actually fight a top-5 contender. At first, I was a bit impressed…I won that fight in a big way. So now I'm ready for any fighter.
“I was actually surprised by myself. That's also why I didn't finish the fight. From the first round, I found the fight easy, and I knew I could win by decision.”
The journey to this next fight was a little arduous. Originally scheduled to fight Chookagian in Paris, Fiorot found herself booked against former strawweight champion Jéssica Andrade when Chookagian withdrew. However, Andrade pulled out of the matchup a month later and was replaced by “Blonde Fighter,” and then Fiorot suffered her knee injury, pushing the matchup to Abu Dhabi.
It's a welcome location, all things considered. Fiorot feels fondly about Ethiad Arena, where she won her Octagon debut against Victoria Leonardo in 2021, and felt “super happy” to compete on the stacked main card, as she hopes to recreate the success she found in the Leonardo bout when she meets Chookagian.
That’s easier said than done against Chookagian, who is on a four-fight winning streak and has made a habit of eating up hopeful contenders. Fiorot recognizes her quality, but she also hopes she can push the fight to areas she feels most successful.
“Chookagian is the most technical opponent of the weight class,” Fiorot said. “(But) I don't think she has my power, and she has a bit of a boring style, so I really want to finish this fight and not to make it boring.”
Rise of Manon Fiorot
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Rise of Manon Fiorot
Fiorot is referencing Chookagian’s 11 decision victories in the Octagon, tied for 7th all-time in the promotion. She is undeniably excellent, however, so Fiorot knows she needs to pressure intelligently.
A win over Chookagian almost certainly lines up Fiorot for a title shot against Valentina Shevchenko, who is most recently coming off her toughest test as champion against Taila Santos. Santos had a similar fast track up the division, earning a title shot in her sixth UFC bout, which Fiorot would match if she beats Chookagian and subsequently challenges for gold.
The trajectory is one that Fiorot sees as both amazing and expected. All that she needs to do is take care of business where she found her first Octagon success, and that gold is all the closer.
“I think it was fast,” Fiorot said. “I didn't expect it to go so fast, but that was the goal. Now, I'm getting closer to the belt, and that's what I wanted all along.”