Las Vegas, NV — Former UFC women’s strawweight champion Jessica Andrade was on vacation with her mother when she learned that Taila Santos was out of UFC Vegas 69’s main event.
She threw her name in the hat, and this Saturday, Andrade (24-9) goes up against Erin Blanchfield in the Fight Night card’s headliner.
The lack of a camp, says Andrade, is made up for by the quick turnaround from her fight with Lauren Murphy, which took place at UFC 283 less than a month ago.
“You saw it, you saw I was actually able to show how good the camp was inside the octagon,” Andrade told media outlets including Cageside Press on Wednesday. “I was just eager to fight. Think about this, I only had one fight last year. So of course I’ll fight as many times as I can. And the camp itself prepared for this fight, all the things that you’re going to see — takedown defense, striking, even the camp falls into this one.”
Andrade was quite familiar with Blanchfield, a former Invicta FC athlete who is undefeated in the UFC thus far, prior to taking the fight. “No one in the UFC seems to want to fight her,” Andrade noted. “I said ‘you know, why not?’ When you think about it, four straight wins, she’s up-and-coming. I’ve seen the fights, and most importantly her last fight, which shows how things go.”
While Andrade feels Blanchfield lacks the power of some of her peers, “you see her when she takes [someone] down, the ground n’ pound, and how she actually gets submissions and how she actually locks people down. I think this is the most important thing for me, takedown defense, and just keeping myself on my toes. We know that whenever we go to the ground, things can get tough with her.”
Andrade pointed out that Blanchfield was ranked further back in the division (#10 as of this week), and would have been fighting the #1-ranked fighter in Taila Santos. Andrade, sitting in third at 125lbs, added that “I’ve had the chance to actually fight somebody, and had the opportunity to fight and someone give me a [shot despite a] lower ranking, so why not give the chance to someone else as well?”
Andrade also sees stepping up against the surging prospect as a test. “I think it’s a challenge to be accepted. I’m ready for everything. I don’t fear anyone. We’re all in the rankings over here. The fight itself, I come from three straight wins as well. So it’s going to be a good fight, that’s all I can say.”
As eager a young upstart as Blanchard may be, at 31, having proven herself before, “you need to understand that my will to win is the same if not better,” stated Andrade. “I can see myself with this fight against her propelling me to actually have a title fight with Weili [Zhang].”
Yes, it’s strawweight champ Weili Zhang that Andrade is targeting, not Valentina Shevchenko. That, despite the Brazilian competing twice in a row at flyweight. Andrade is also hoping she can lure Zhang to her native Brazil.
“I went to China to face Weili. I’ve been there, I went to her. And now, we can fight here in Vegas, it would be great, or anywhere in the United States.” But since Zhang has done camps in the U.S. before and spent time at the UFC Performance Institute, “I want to take her out to Brazil, because I went out to China to face her. To remove her out of her comfort zone. I think that, I did that for her, so to speak, so why not do it for me?”
Jessica Andrade has looked as good as ever of late, seemingly getting better and looking younger than ever. As to what motivates her, there was one factor that immediately came to mind: family.
“I think my family first and foremost, because there was a moment in my life that I didn’t have that,” Andrade told Cageside Press. “I think maybe I kind of let that go as of the initial journey in MMA, and I’ve gone back to that. My master, obviously, the team and everybody else that’s around me, it is amazing to actually have that opportunity. Look at what I’ve been able to see, personally. The things that I’ve been able to accomplish, the things that I’ve been able to see, the places that I’ve been able to see, the people I’ve been able to meet. You have that, myself, that motivates me to get even more. But when I go back and I see my mother and I see everything that I’ve been able to provide for her and how much more I can still continue to provide, that’s great motivation.”
Andrade used a half-full cup analogy more than once during Wednesday’s media day. “Going back to that cup, it’s just that half. That’s what it is. It’s not full of everything I can provide.”
Beyond that, there’s wanting to show more of what she’s been taught by her coaches. “I think I have so many more weapons to bring in. I have my knee. I have elbows. You haven’t seen that from me. And I think those weapons are just different things in the arsenal that I can keep bringing back.”
Watch the full UFC Vegas 69 media day appearance by Jessica Andrade above.