Fighter stays confident after second straight defeat
by Bryan Fonseca
Apr 11, 2018 | 6931 views | 0 0 comments | 338 338 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photos: Jeffrey Armstrong
Photos: Jeffrey Armstrong
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Inside of a reserved room in Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House on 6th Avenue, Joanna Jedrzejczyk is unapologetically brazen. It’s like she’s the World Champion except, of course, she’s not anymore.

It’s Monday, around 1 p.m., five days prior to her rematch with Rose Namajunas, who knocked out Jedrzejczyk in November, her lone defeat, inside of Madison Square Garden for the UFC Strawweight Championship.

Yet, at the pre-fight luncheon near Rockefeller Center, Jedrzejczyk, nicknamed “Joanna Champion,” did not carry herself like a challenger ahead of a collision course with her lone conqueror.

“I’m happy, I’m free,” said Jedrzejczyk. “I got so emotional after the sparring session last Tuesday, I started to cry, because we got to the point where we wanted to be as we planned day one of camp. That’s amazing.”

Jedrzejczyk, 30, is proudly from Poland, where she became a world champion in Kickboxing and Muay Thai before transitioning into Mixed Martial Arts, where she eventually found the UFC, won the World Strawweight Title, successfully defended it a record five times, and amassed a perfect 14-0 record before losing to Namajunas, 25.

In America, there are more Polish people in New York than in any other state, nearly 1,000,000, making up over 5 percent of the state’s total population. Jedrzejczyk receives an overwhelming amount of support anytime she’s in the city.

“I love this place,” she told BQE Media that Monday, full of zest. “I remember when I was a little girl, I was dreaming about a trip to New York. When you think of the states you think of New York. There’s a good Polish community here and I love this place. I’ve always wanted to fight at The Garden, I did it twice.”

In four New York City-held UFC cards dating back to November, 2016, no fighter has competed in the city more than Jedrzejczyk at three times. The third came in the form of UFC 223 at Barclays Center, her rematch with Namajunas, promoted as the co-main event this past Saturday night.

“When people heard about me fighting in UFC 223 and the tickets went on sale, people were sending screenshots of the tickets they purchased,” Jedrzejczyk said of local support leading up to fight night. “That’s great, it makes me happy. They know who’s the real deal.”

On Wednesday, the two finally met face-to-face at the Williamsburg Music Hall, and again the next day inside of Barclays Center during pre-fight media events. Both were contentious.

Jedrzejczyk struck her trademark face-to-face pose, greeting opponents with a raised fist, in this case, her left, at the jaw of Namajunas, who stared back into Jedrzejczyk’s eyes each time without a flinch.

“I have a lot of respect for Joanna,” Namajunas, who improved to 8-3 after knocking out Jedrzejczyk back in November, told BQE Media on Thursday. “I think she’s done a lot, I’m just really looking forward to challenging myself again against her.”

That Saturday, Jedrzejczyk was as intense as she’d ever been, with an emotional entrance to “Revolution” by Diplo draped in the Polish flag, not taking her eyes off of Namajunas as the champion entered the octagon. Neither touched gloves prior to the start of the fight.

During the bout, Namajunas appeared stronger once again, landing more powerful strikes up top, causing considerable swelling to Jedrzejczyk’s face, although the former champ would shake her head and smile with each landing combination.

But the former 27-3 kickboxer Jedrzejczyk did an ample amount of damage down low, creating redness and an eventual gash on Namajunas’ left leg. Jedrzejczyk even out-landed Namajunas in total strikes (143-85) and significant strikes (132-84).

But Namajunas prevailed in a five-round unanimous decision, with all scorecards reading 49-46. Jedrzejczyk disagreed, not in disgust, but in fearlessness. Jedrzejczyk said that when octagon announcer Bruce Buffer received the scorecards, she expected a split-decision victory, but as the actual tallies read 49-46, she (and her coaches) expected the wide margin to be in her favor.

Although proven wrong, she remained unabashed.

“I’m very proud of myself, I’m totally fine, I’m in a good mood,” said Jedrzejczyk post-fight. “The numbers don’t lie, the significant strikes are telling the truth.”

Asked if she thought the judges put enough weight into her astute leg-kicking, Jedrzejczyk simply responded, “let’s see how she’s going to walk tomorrow.”

Namajunas, naturally the antithesis to Jedrzejczyk’s vocal personality, had exuded a calm self-conviction all week long, a theme continued after the victory, topped off with a hint of gratitude.

“My hat’s off to her,” said Namajunas, who is now 9-3. “This entire camp I was just thinking about how she did it for five times in a row. I have a lot of respect for her.”

Though an entertaining rivalry, a trilogy for a 2-0 rivalry doesn’t appear imminent. Namajunas mentions Karolina Kowalkiewicz, who has a previous win over the current champion and a loss to Jedrzejczyk, among others, as a potential opponent.

Kowalkiewicz was victorious over Felice Herrig on Saturday’s undercard.

As for the now 14-2 Jedrzejczyk, she simply wants the best, and doesn’t rule out a move up to the 125-pound flyweight division.

“You see the other female strawweights fighting and compare me to them, come on,” she said. “They cannot compare themselves to me. They all are only jealous and talking too much all of the time. I’m telling them bow down. Bow down, I’m the queen.”
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