London: The incredible performance of Manon Fiorot on 20 January at UFC Fight Night was much more than another emphatic debut for a newcomer to the organisation. It was a symbolic demonstration of a new era in French MMA, showing the potential of what French sport can contribute to the top-flight of mixed martial arts.
The 2017 IMMAF bantamweight World champion and European Open silver medallist turned professional in 2018 and stormed into the UFC flyweight division this year with much anticipation, dragging a fearsome win-streak behind her. The 30-year-old striking specialist dissected her UFC rival, Victoria Leonardo, with near flawless balance and footwork and takedown defence to boot. The masterful performance saw Fiorot control the distance with her trademark sidekicks and sniper precision shots to set up a highlight reel head kick and subsequent TKO in the second round.
While French talent in the UFC has been pioneered in previous years by the likes of Cheick Kongo, Cyrille Diabate, Tom Duquesnoy, and most prominently by Francis Ngannou, Fiorot is the first new prospect to emerge since restrictions on MMA in France were lifted and the sport became subject to state governance and development.
Fiorot ushers in the start of a new era for French MMA as a product of France’s embedded combat sport pathway and heritage. Second only to Japan, France is the most successful country in the history of the World Karate Championships and that prominence sees French karate enjoy government support and a deep national talent pool spanning hundreds of thousands of practitioners. Starting off at the age of seven, Fiorot rose to the top of that great karate population to win a division 2 national championships and progressed to place third in the elite first division, joining the world leading French national team. She later went on to accumulate a 15-0 amateur K-1 record and two national titles before transitioning to MMA.
Fiorot’s use of the IMMAF platform could not have proved more beneficial to her while representing France’s national MMA team. The learning curve that Manon was provided undoubtedly set her up for success as a professional. Fiorot took to the elite amateur level for the first time at the 2017 IMMAF European Open in Sofia and progressed to the final where the wrestling of world champion Cornelia Holm got the better of the French standout, who took home the silver medal. Later that year, Fiorot entered the 2017 IMMAF World Championships and was not taken down once as she cruised to win the gold medal.
Fiorot’s professional transition also marked a dramatic evolution in her fighting style. No longer is she the evasive striker, cautiously maintaining distance while adapting her skillset. She has instead become a highly aggressive and threatening striker, confidently pressing forward in the face of opponents with a frightening despatch of pinpoint controlled ferocity, which she executes with such poise and balance that it would seem simply second nature.
The IMMAF believes that Manon’s triumphant, calculated journey can blaze a new trail, highlighting opportunities for other world-class, French combat sport talent and carrying France to new heights within the world’s fastest growing sport.
Article written by Jorden Curran
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Founder, Executive Writer, Senior Editor of FightBook MMA. Has a passion for Combat Sports and also a podcast host for Sitting Ringside. He’s also a former MMA fighter and Kickboxer.
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