Two of the last three strawweight title challengers squared off at UFC 212 on Saturday night, and the end result wasn’t very competitive.
Claudia Gadelha made short work of Karolina Kowalkiewicz in Rio de Janeiro, submitting her Polish foe with a rear-naked choke 3:03 into round one. For Gadelha, the victory arrived because she was willing to leave the comfort zone of her longtime training home of Nova Uniao. That was far from easy.
“I feel great. Like I’ve been saying, I’ve changed a lot. And I had to challenge myself for that,” Gadelha said on Fox Sports 1. “It wasn’t easy. It was very hard. I had eight weeks camp in Albuquerque. I missed my family. I had to do that to become the new Claudia.”
Gadelha initially relocated to Luttrell-Yee MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., prior to a unanimous decision win over Cortney Casey at UFC Fight Night 100 this past November. In addition to working with coaches Chris Luttrell and Ray Yee, Gadelha supplemented her training at the renowned Jackson-Wink MMA gym. Leaving Brazil and Nova Uniao was essential to her growth, Gadelha said.
“I felt like I wasn’t getting any better. I trained in a big team my whole life with great fighters. I felt like I needed attention,” she said. “I needed a coach with me and training partners to help me become the fighter I wanted to be, and I wasn’t having that.”
While Joanna Jedrzejczyk continues to reign over the strawweight division, Gadelha has been the Polish champion’s toughest opponent. Still, Gadelha already has two losses to Jedrzejczyk on her ledger, which will likely make a road back to another title shot even more difficult if the belt doesn’t change hands. While Gadelha isn’t calling for a third meeting with Jedrzejczyk just yet, she believes the changes she has made will eventually allow her to avenge those defeats.
“The new Claudia is coming. I’m doing everything I can to be the girl to beat Joanna,” she said.
“I am moving to Albuquerque now full time. I want to buy a a new car and a fancy dog. I don’t know what’s next for me,” she continued. “I don’t feel like nobody but Joanna is a challenge for me in the division.”