When Joanna Jedrzejczyk returns to action at UFC 275 next month, she’ll do so facing a tidal wave of expectations.
Having gone from a little-known strawweight out of Poland to the most dominant champion the division has ever seen, the woman who became known as Joanna Champion set a bar for the 115 pound weight class that has yet to be surpassed.
And while she’s hit a rough patch since losing her title in 2017, Jedrzejczyk (16-4) also returns after over two years away looking to build off a career-defining performance opposite Weili Zhang that earned Fight of the Year in 2020.
Hence the expectations. “Oh yeah, because we put on a great performance and a great fight, Fight of the Year. And people are expecting us to do this again,” Jedrzejczyk acknowledged recently, speaking to Cageside Press in an exclusive interview. “But I feel like me and Weili Zhang, we are at this level where we know what it means to be the champ, and be right there at the top. And we know there’s a big prize, because one of us, after the victory, will go for the strawweight belt.”
Of course, anything and everything can happen in a fight, Jedrzejczyk added, “but I feel like me and her are such warriors, we’re going to give the best fight of the year again, two years later.”
Zhang vs. Jedrzejczyk wasn’t just Fight of the Year, and one of the best women’s fights of all time. It was one of the best fights of all time, period. And that has pushed expectations straight up into the clouds ahead of UFC 275. Yet at the same time, both women have evolved in the past two years. And wouldn’t a quick knockout be more satisfying?
“Of course, nobody wants to get damaged and these fights are not easy fights, but I know that I’m there right at the top, and I always wanted to fight the best and this is what I’m doing, I’m facing the best,” Jedrzejczyk explained. “And I know what my goal is, I’m on a mission to get this title back, and I know I have to face the best. This whole MMA, women’s MMA, the level is changing, it’s just going up all the time with every event, so I have to stay in shape. Of course my dream fight is to win in the first round via knockout or submission, but it isn’t that easy as you know.”
“So we’ll see. I’m just preparing for anything and everything,” the future Hall of Famer continued. “I need to be in the best shape ever, as always. The hard work is so many weeks before. The fight is an exam.” Or, as she then put it, “the fight is a pleasure, it’s the cherry on top of the birthday cake.”
As Joanna later put it, does she need to feign poverty or exhaustion because of critics? No. “I’m enjoying my life every single day,” Jedrzejczyk told us. “And the other thing is that, it’s all about managing your time. It’s such an important thing in the business [world] as well. This is who I am, and I will not stop working because people don’t like it. People don’t like to see the exposure. People are lazy; some people want to work more, some not, and I respect that. But just let me work, let me do my things. And that’s the point.”
And the positive feedback from fellow athletes, impressed by her ability to stay in the gym while still finding success at other ventures? “It motivates me to do even more, because there are people who really like it.”
Watch our full interview with UFC 275’s Joanna Jedrzejczyk above. The former UFC champ returns on June 11 against Weili Zhang, in a hotly anticipated rematch set to go down in Singapore.