Her name might not roll off the tongue quite as easily as ‘‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey’ but she’s no less of a fighter and no less a champion. Born in Poland, Joanna Jędrzejczyk had two fights in the UFC before she faced decorated champion Carla Esparza for the women’s UFC Strawweight Championship. Coming into the fight as a major underdog, Joanna shocked everyone by earning a definitive win via strikes in the second round of the fight, making champion and MMA veteran Esparza look amateur. She became the third European to ever win a UFC belt and the first ever European woman to own a UFC title.
Photo courtesy of mmafighting.com
Jędrzejczyk has since been described as “silly, stylish and endearing” by MMA journalists, but I’d also have to add confident, determined, respectful and talented to that list of adjectives. She took to Muay Thai and kickboxing initially to lose weight but after 6 months she entered into her first competition in Poland and won. From that moment she knew exactly what she wanted to do and began pursuing a career in MMA. She became a champion kickboxer in Europe and continued on a winning streak straight to the UFC title. So she’s right to be confident in her technique and had no hesitation in claiming to be the best before she’d even won the belt. But still she admits how much of a struggle chasing her dreams has been. In an interview with Fox Sports she states: “in the beginning it wasn’t easy […] I always have high ambitions. […] and in the beginning it was difficult to learn wrestling, Jiu Jitsu and I didn’t know what exactly was going to happen, but I had a dream and [my] dream came true […] when I wont the UFC title. That’s why I survived.” But she doesn’t take her championship for granted: “Every fight [is] going to be more difficult. You can be the underdog, but you can beat the champion. This is what I did […] so I have lots of respect for my opponents.”
Her next fight and first title defence will be against #3 ranked Jessica Penne on 20th June in Berlin. Penne has been a title holder in many other organisations and has a current record of 12 wins and two losses, making her a dangerous opponent for Joanna. But she’s not all that scared: “Her wrestling is good, but not as good as Carla’s […] she will try to take me down, but we will see.” And with a smile and a laugh she proclaims: “They cannot do it […] I’m going to stay the champion.”
With a few ‘aces’ in her hand, Joanna is in no doubt that she will remain the UFC champion and I’ll be rooting for her on June 20th. To me she’s a likeable champion, she’s respectful yet confident, amazingly talented and quirky and the UFC seems to be lacking fighters like this lately. It can’t be easy coming into an organisation that is already very much dominated by another female, so to stand out from under Ronda’s shadow could be tricky, which is why I wanted to introduce her to you. Ronda was the break through star, the swim suit model, the fighter/actress but Joanna Jędrzejczyk could be all of this and more and she certainly seems ready for the challenge.
Take a look at her fight history on www.ufc.tv