A new Joanna Jedrzejczyk?
One of the most dominant women in mixed martial arts believes she has a trick or two up her sleeve entering her strawweight championship defense against Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 205 on Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden.
Only a few weeks ahead of her fourth title defense, Jedrzejczyk took her talents to Coconut Creek, Florida, to join American Top Team, and she believes the move already has changed her game.
“I can honestly say that I am very happy, I am fresh, I am open, I challenge myself every day, I learned new stuff,” Jedrzejczyk said on a conference call Wednesday. “You’re going to see a new Joanna in this fight, maybe just a little bit, but I’m looking forward for my next fight with (coaches) Mike Brown, Kami (Barzini), Katel (Kubis) and ATT, because it’s a perfect place to be.”
Jedrzejczyk (12-0) still looks for new ways to improve and said people will be surprised how she finishes her upcoming fight. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the strawweight division.
Currently the second-longest reigning UFC title holder, she dubbed herself “Joanna Champion” ahead of her first title fight at UFC 185 in March 2015, living up to the name with a second-round knockout of Carla Esparza. Since, she’s made relatively easy work of Jessica Penne, Valerie Letourneau and Claudia Gadelha.
As champion, she’s become one of the UFC’s biggest up-and-coming stars, co-headlining with Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm at UFC 193, the promotion’s most attended event. Now, she’s booked for one of three championship fights at the promotion’s first event in New York City.
Still, Jedrzejczyk felt it was time to shake things up.
“Sometimes we get tired of some people or the places or atmosphere,” Jedrzejczyk said. “And I needed to change that.”
Jedrzejczyk said the reaction to the move wasn’t all positive in Poland. She also said she “left everything” behind, including her family and fiancé, to train with American Top Team, the camp of bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes and former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler, among other high-level fighters. After spending only six to seven weeks with her new team, Jedrzejczyk expects to stay in Florida for nine months in 2017 with a plan to fight three times next year.
“It was like a transfer in football, European football, soccer” Jedrzejczyk said. “I moved, I changed the gym because I felt that I must do this. I feel different, I wanted to defend my title and that’s my goal, so I felt like I had to do this move.”
Jedrzejczyk said she is entirely focused on herself and her preparation for Kowalkiewicz, not the words of those on the outside criticizing her move. She believes she had a harder camp working at American Top Team, but she’s calmer this time around. She is happy with her decision and believes everyone will see why when she enters the cage.
Kowalkiewicz (10-0) is still going about her business in Poland, where both fighters said the bout is among the country’s hottest topics.
“In Poland, this is really a big thing, two Polish fighters,” Kowalkiewicz said. “We fight on the biggest event in the world, so this is something big and people are very excited and very happy.”
Jedrzejczyk said she’s happy for everyone involved in this “historical moment” for MMA in Poland, even if she can’t be in the country herself.