When Joanna Jedrzejczyk met Rose Namajunas for the women’s strawweight title at UFC 217 last November, many thought the champion had a major advantage.
While Namajunas is a skilled fighter, Jedrzejczyk was undefeated going into the matchup and had handily dispatched most challengers who had stood in her path. Except for a few moments, Jedrzejczyk had looked unstoppable during her MMA career.
But “Thug Rose” shocked the world by landing a big punch early in the bout that dropped the champion. After getting back to her feet, Jedrzejczyk was put down once more and this time was forced to tap to the barrage of strikes that followed.
Namajunas wasn’t written off, but most thought her best chance at winning was to take the feared striker to the ground. She did, technically, but there weren’t many people predicting she’d do it with strikes – let alone in the first round.
Now only days away from a rematch at UFC 223, Jedrzejczyk says losing may have lifted a burden from her in some regards.
She said: “There is no pressure on me. I’m never nervous about fight week, big fights, because the hard work is done so many weeks, days before the fight. I’m enjoying this, and I look at things differently. I used to say that I want to be undefeated, I wanted to retire undefeated. I don’t care about this anymore.”
Fighters deal with defeat in different ways. Former poster woman for female MMA Ronda Rousey disappeared from the public eye for a year following her first defeat, then all but retired following her second consecutive loss.
Famed PRIDE FC heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko gave a more upbeat sentiment after his first loss in a decade, stating “the one who doesn’t fall doesn’t stand up.” Jedrzejczyk seems to have regained her confidence and is taking a similar approach to the rematch – it’s a chance at redemption.
The unexpected outcome in the first fight led many to believe the champion took her challenger lightly, but it seems there is more to the story.
Jedrzejczyk said a rough weight cut preceded her title defense against Namajunas. The 30-year-old has said losing so much weight in such a short time impacted her performance, and meant she wasn’t at her best when she faced Namajunas.
The weight issue could become more problematic as she grows older. But according to her, she’s already considered making a move up to flyweight (125-pounds) in the future. She even thought about doing so if she’d won the fight against Namajunas last year.
She said: “If I won the fight with Rose Namajunas (at UFC 217), I was planning to move up because your body’s changing.”
Many fighters have moved up in weight throughout the course of their careers, some with great success. If Jedrzejczyk were to move up and potentially capture the title, she’d be the first woman to hold titles in two weight classes.
Also on the UFC 223 is a lightweight title matchup between unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov and featherweight champion Max Holloway.