Six months ago, Joanna Jedrzejczyk was on top of the world. After a 2 1⁄2 year reign atop the UFC strawweight division, she began pondering a move up in weight to take over the burgeoning flyweight scene.
Three minutes and three seconds against Rose Namajunas at Madison Square Garden put a halt to her grand plans. On Nov. 4, Jedrzejczyk (14-1) was forced to submit to strikes from her opponent and relinquish her title.
“You cannot plan life,” Jedrzejczyk told amNewYork in Manhattan on Monday. “Life is surprising. I had to make new plans and push some plans back.”
Her immediate goal is to reclaim her strawweight crown in a rematch with Namajunas (7-3) at Saturday’s UFC 223 pay-per-view co-headliner at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Jedrzejczyk maintains that a brutal weight cut contributed heavily to the loss, but says she is in better shape four days ahead of Friday’s weigh-in.
“Rose won the battle,” Jedrzejczyk said, “but she isn’t going to win the war.”
During her championship run, Jedrzejczyk typically overwhelmed opponents with a high-volume Muay Thai attack. She successfully defended her crown five times after winning the belt in March 2015. According to official UFC stats provider FightMetric, she outlanded opponents 918-324 over 23 rounds in that span.
But against Namajunas, the Polish striker was knocked down by a right hand 1:50 into Round 1. She managed to get back on her feet and re-engage, but Namajunas dropped her again with a lunging left at the 2:55 mark and swarmed with shots on the ground until the champ tapped out. She landed just five strikes, according to FightMetric.
The loss stung, she said, but not for long. Jedrzejczyk’s 7-year-old nephew played a role in that. Traveling abroad from Poland for the first time to see her fight, he came to the locker room afterward to see his aunt and console her with a hug.
“You must be [an] adult for him,” Jedrzejczyk said. “And I told him, ‘You see, nothing to worry about.’ I stopped crying. It’s a sport. It’s part of our lives, our job. I said, ‘You see? One time we win; one time we lose. But we must keep our heads up.’ ”
On Saturday in Brooklyn, Jedrzejczyk expects the boy’s second trip to the city will go her way.
“He’s coming out again, and I’m very happy we will share these happy moments this time,” she said.