Joanna Jedrzejczyk has opened up about the pressures of being a champion for the UFC.
Jedrzejczyk (16-3-0) will attempt to reclaim the UFC strawweight title on March 7 when she battles reigning champ, Zhang Weili, at the UFC 248 pay-per-view event.
The 32-year-old previously held the title for almost three years, defeating Carla Esparza to capture the belt in 2015 and then going on to defend a total of five times, taking out Jessica Andrade, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Claudia Gadelha, Valerie Letourneau and Jessica Penne.
Ahead of the March 7 showdown, Jedrzejczyk recently took part in an interview with MMAJunkie and opened up about the pressures of being a champion for the world’s biggest MMA organization.
“It’s not easy to become the champ,” Jedrzejczyk said. “You definitely need to do many more obligations after you win the belt, and it’s not like the champions don’t want to do it. Of course, you are like a stock for the UFC and they need to use you to promote the organization, so you need to do more stuff.
“I love doing many different (thinks). I love doing media. I love working with sponsors. But it’s all about organizing your time. Some fighters, they don’t know how to do it – and I know how to do it. I can’t wait to get this belt and put in the work again.”
The 32-year-old feels people are counting her out in the lead-up to her upcoming fight against Zhang Weili.
“Two years and eight months – almost three years,” Jedrzejczyk said. “It was a long time, but people always are going to doubt me, doubt you, and they keep on doubting. But show me another one.
“Of course, I give all my respect to Rose Namajunas. I really like her and she beat me. She knocked me out, and there is no question. But Ronda Rousey – six successful title defenses. Joanna Jedrzejczyk, five. And of course, the ‘GOAT’ of women’s MMA is Amanda Nunes right now. Nobody can take my legacy away from me, and that’s the point. People can say whatever they want. I don’t care.”
Jedrzejczyk went on to discuss why she believes Zhang Weili received a title shot despite not being ranked within the top five at the time.
“Politics, money, new (UFC) Performance Institute in Shanghai – but hey, she made it to the top and she’s the champ for a reason,” Jedrzejczyk said. “Rankings don’t fight, and someone can look better on paper. But when you step in the octagon, it’s always 50-50. It doesn’t matter if you looked better on paper or not.
“And she made it. I didn’t want to fight her in August. Tatiana (Suarez) was injured, and there was nobody who could step in to fight Jessica Andrade.(Andrade) was waiting, got to go fight in China. She did it, she lost, and we have a new champ – and that’s it. It’s simple like this.
The former champ is confident she will reclaim her belt in March, but is full of respect for Zhang who she believes joins a ‘special league’ of UFC champions and will be a ‘GOAT forever’.
“I’m very happy for Zhang that she took her chance and she became champion. That’s it. There’s more than 500 fighters in the UFC and there is only like 13 or 14 champions, so it’s a special league. If you make it once, you’re the ‘GOAT’ forever.” she said.
UFC 248 takes place on Saturday March 7, 2020, from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States. The main card featuring Weili vs. Jedrzejczyk will be aired live on PPV from 10pm EST.