When Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas squared off ahead of their first bout at UFC 217 last November at Madison Square Garden, Jedrzejczyk played her usual mind games — a fist extended in her opponent’s face, some jawing and an intense stare.
Funny how a loss can change someone.
In their first fight week appearance together ahead of their rematch at UFC 223 on Saturday at Barclays Center, former strawweight queen Jedrzejczyk didn’t engage in her usual tactics, opting to stay silent with her hands in a standard fighting pose while staring down Namajunas, the woman who took away her belt — as well as her unbeaten record — with a first-round knockout less than five months ago.
During their news conference, Jedrzejczyk avoided a question about the mental games she typically plays during fight week.
“I will do my job on Saturday,” she said, placing her microphone to the table with no further comment.
Jedrzejczyk (14-1, 8-1 UFC) cut her open workout short, saying she wanted to keep things a secret ahead of Saturday. It’s no secret, however, that this is one of the most anticipated fights in the 115-pound division’s short history.
“This fight could headline the pay-per-view, the difference is we go by weight and unfortunately they’re the smallest weight, but this is a big fight,” said UFC president Dana White. “The first fight, the way that it played out and how Rose looked, it was an incredible fight and this is going to be a very good fight. I actually predicted that this will be fight of the night.”
Namajunas (7-3, 5-2) hasn’t changed her fight week mentality a bit since becoming champion at Madison Square Garden, continuing her stoic demeanor throughout the media event and staredowns.
“All I need is to be myself, that’s all that matters,” Namajunas said. “I’ve got some new muscles, I’ve got some more knowledge, but my spirit’s the same. I’m like a tree — my leaves might change color, but my roots are the same.”
Jedrzejczyk said she’s a brand-new fighter and has put what happened last November behind her.
“I did that already a long time ago,” Jedrzejczyk said. “I changed as a fighter and you are going to see a second version of Joanna the champion. Like I said before, I was the champion for a reason and I will prove that on Saturday. My game changed — watch it.”