When Joanna Jedrzejczyk first moved her training camp from Poland to American Top Team in the U.S., she had less than two months to get acclimated to her new coaches before defending the strawweight belt against Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 205.
That worked out well enough, as she cruised to a unanimous decision victory over her Polish rival at Madison Square Garden last November. However, Jedrzejczyk was arguably more impressive in a dominant five-round triumph over Jessica Andrade in the UFC 211 co-main event on Saturday night. Facing an opponent many believed would be her toughest test to date, Jedrzejczyk landed a whopping 225 significant strikes while constantly evading danger against the heavy-handed Brazilian.
According to Jedrzejczyk, an increased familiarity with her surroundings led to a more complete performance in the Octagon.
“Some of the fighters, they have a big mouth before the fight and they think they know the best way to beat the champion. Every camp I’m focused on what I can do better,” she said. “I’m always trying to change something and don’t let them beat me. Before my fight in Madison Square Garden, I had just six or seven weeks with my coaches. This time we had more time…I feel like I went on a different level and I’m going forward. I can’t wait til I go back to ATT and put in more work again.”
Jedrzejczyk’s move to the U.S. had a dual purpose. Not only was it to improve her skill set as a fighter, but it also provided an opportunity to increase her visibility as one of the top female stars in the sport today.
“That’s why I moved to the U.S.. That’s why I moved to ATT because I want my brand to be in the U.S. MMA is very big in Poland. People know a lot about MMA, but I feel like I’m an international champion,” she said. “UFC is the best organization in the world and most of the shows are in the U.S.. I need to be here to build my brand. The most important thing is to work hard and keep on defending this belt.”
While Jedrzejczyk continues to gain recognition, she has a ways to go before she can surpass the popularity of former bantamweight queen Ronda Rousey. Still, UFC President Dana White believes the strawweight queen is on the right track.
“She’s got a great personality. She’s awesome and so technical and so badass,” he said. “Some people have different paths. It just takes a little longer.”
Part of what makes Jedrzejczyk great is that she refuses to rest on her laurels. Even with an unblemished record and five consecutive title defenses in the Octagon, Joanna “Champion” isn’t satisfied with her achievements.
“I build my legacy. I want to be the best. I stay humble. I prefer to work hard and keep this belt,” she said. “It’s nice when people call me the best female fighter in the UFC or the best striker, but I know there’s hard work to do.”
Eventually, Jedrzejczyk could attempt to become a two-division champion. The UFC recently announced that it will introduce the female flyweight division this year, and Jedrzejczyk has already said she would be interested in pursuing a title in the weight class when it became part of the promotion. White believes Jedrzejczyk will move up once she surpasses Rousey’s championship dominance.
“I would imagine what she would do is she would probably break Ronda Rousey’s record [for title defenses] at 115 and then go for the 125 weight class,” he said. “Once you get to that number you don’t want to cut 115 again. I bet she would go to 125 after breaking the record.”