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Women of UFC 193 ready to make history in Australia stadium show

Joanna Jedrzejczyk, left, battles with Jessica Penne for

Joanna Jedrzejczyk, left, battles with Jessica Penne for the women's strawweight title during UFC Fight Night in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, June 20, 2015. Jedrzejczyk defeated Penne through KO/TKO. Credit: AP / Axel Schmidt

The enormity of UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia, mostly will be something new for the event's headliners.

For UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, it wasn't too long ago that she fought in a shopping mall in early 2014.

"The cage was so small, I don't know, one-fourth of a UFC cage,"Jedrzejczyk recalled Thursday. "And there were maybe around 300 people. It was more business meeting than a show."

It definitely will be a show when UFC 193 kicks off in front of an expected crowd of 70,000 at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. The card will be held on Sunday, Nov. 15, airing Saturday, Nov. 14, in the U.S.

In the first UFC event headlined by two women's championship fights, Jedrzejczyk will defend her strawweight belt against Valérie Létourneau before the sport's biggest star, Ronda Rousey, defends her women's bantamweight title against former boxing champion Holly Holm.

"I think it's awesome. It's part of history," Holm said on a media conference call along with Jedrzejczyk and Létourneau (Rousey was scheduled to speak on the call but lost her connection before answering any questions and did not return). "This has never happened before in boxing or MMA, to have two women headlining the co-main and main events, so it's awesome. We get to be part of history. There's really no other way to explain it. It's just an honor to be part of it."

Despite being less than three years removed from the first women's fight in UFC history, UFC 193 is in position to break the promotion's previous attendance record of 55,724 at UFC 129 in Toronto.

"It's going to be one of the best fights and moments for me in my fighting career," Jedrzejczyk said. "I did almost a hundred Muay Thai fights, but it's going to be the biggest fight of my life. It's amazing, you know. I'm happy that UFC trusts enough in the female fighters. We are going to really put on a show in Australia."

Jedrzejczyk's opponent has seen the growth of women's MMA up close. Létourneau made her professional debut in 2007 with little idea of how big women's MMA would become.

"Looking at what was going on with the female mixed martial arts, I think it's unbelievable how we've moved in two or three years," Létourneau said. "This is something I could have never imagined five years ago. Very exciting."

The dominance and appeal of Rousey has without question been the driving force behind the fast growth, and her peers understand the doors she's opened in recent years.

"She's definitely helped pave the way and make strides for women's MMA," Holm said of her opponent. "I think that it's giving a lot of drive to women who want to get in there and make strides, so I think that it's also helped encourage a lot of other women fighters to do more. She definitely deserves the limelight that she has. She worked hard for it."

As big as UFC 193 will be for women's MMA, its competitors see this as just the next step.

Said Jedrzejczyk, "I wish in the future maybe we're going to have more shows just with ladies in the UFC."


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