Joanna Jedrzejczyk knows what it takes to become UFC champion, but even more importantly, she learned how to stay champion.
With five title defenses under her belt as well as two recent losses in championship fights, Jedrzejczyk has plenty of experience to understand the do-or-die nature of competition when a belt is on the line.
At UFC 248, Jedrzejczyk will attempt to win back her title while facing new champion Zhang Weili, who shocked the world last August when she knocked out Jessica Andrade to win the 115-pound title.
It was an amazing accomplishment that saw the first ever Chinese fighter crowned champion in the UFC, but Jedrzejczyk can’t help but wonder if her victory was a bigger by-product of the Andrade’s weakness rather than Zhang’s strengths.
“Her ranking, her record is so good, 20-1, but records and rankings don’t fight,” Jedrzejczyk told MMAFighting.com recently. “She’s the champion. She’s right at the top and she’s the best strawweight in the world right now. She’s my next big challenge and I’m very happy to face the best. She’s very dangerous. She surprised the world. She did well in the fight with Jessica Andrade.
“I think that Jessica Andrade was not in her best shape when she faced Weili Zhang. What I heard from her camp, that they had so many problems in China with the weight cut. She couldn’t be focused on the proper weight cut and rehydration and then fight. It was a totally different Jessica Andrade in the fight with Weili Zhang. Like I said, she’s the champ. She’s training really, really hard. But she hasn’t faced someone like me yet.”
Jedrzejczyk may not be completely sold on Zhang after she’s only had four fights in the UFC.
Maybe she’s the real deal — and Jedrzejczyk treated her that way during training camp — but the former champion is looking forward to testing her during every round of their fight on March 7.
“I will have to be smart in this fight and I will show my heart and we’re going to play my game but she hasn’t faced someone like me,” Jedrzejcyzk said. “My cardio is always good and I always improve from camp to camp.
“We’re going to check Weili Zhang in this fight. How is her condition and how she does in the real championship bout.”
A win would make Jedrzejczyk the first ever two-time strawweight champion in UFC history. She’s also hoping to adopt her former nickname once she gets the title wrapped back around her waist.
“I just want to make some people’s lives easier because they are still struggling with my family name,” Jedrzejczyk said when referring to her previous nickname as “Joanna Champion.” “That should make it easier.
“I’m going to say it again, I’ve been in this business 17 years. Multiple-time Muay Thai and European champion, six-time UFC world champion, and this one victory on March 7 is going to be bigger than my whole fighting career, all the titles, everything, all the accomplishments. It’s going to be bigger. I’m looking forward to stepping into the Octagon in the best shape ever and taking it.”