Meet the Fighter Set to Tie Ronda Rousey's Record for Most UFC Title Defenses By a Woman
Joanna Jędrzejczyk shares how she's getting ready for the biggest fight of her life.
Since making her professional debut in 2014, Joanna Jędrzejczyk has defeated every 115-pound opponent who's crossed her path in the UFC octagon. The Polish mixed martial artist and former Muay Thai kickboxer is currently the UFC Women's Strawweight Champion and the number one female pound-for-pound Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter in the world. (For those of you who may not know, MMA is a sport and UFC is the largest MMA promotion in the world that features the top-ranked MMA fighters.)
Now, she's looking to tie former bantamweight champion (135 pounds) and friend Ronda Rousey's record for most UFC title defenses made by a woman. She will fight to defend her UFC Women's Strawweight Champion title for the sixth time.
On November 4, Jędrzejczyk will battle ranking UFC strawweight, Rose Namajunas, at Madison Square Garden-and she is more ready than ever. "This sport is all about winning the fight, setting records, and defending titles," Jędrzejczyk told Shape. "It's not going to be an easy fight-there is no easy fight in the UFC-but I'm just focusing on defending my title and I want to do it again next year so I can make history." (Don't leave the fighting to Jędrzejczyk-here's why you should give MMA a try yourself.)
To prep for the fight, Jędrzejczyk has been training twice a day, every day, at a 12-week camp in Florida, away from her family, friends, and fiancé back in Poland. Everything is dialed in to optimize performance-her workouts, her diet, her rest days.
The camp is split into four different phases, forcing fighters to focus on certain skill sets. The first few weeks involve a lot of weight training to put on muscle and build overall strength. Then, fighters go through conditioning that involves resistance training to help increase explosive strength. Following that, they start sparring sessions to test their stamina and build the energy it takes to complete an entire match. And finally, they work on their speed through cardio drills leading up to the weight cut in order to make strawweight.
Jędrzejczyk also bikes to and from the gym at least once a day just for fun. "You've got to really love it and be crazy about it to keep up with the schedule," she says, adding that she's never skipped a class in her life.
On top of her crazy training regimen, one of the biggest challenges Jędrzejczyk will face is cutting weight. When not preparing for a fight, Jędrzejczyk weighs around 125 pounds, which worked well for her during her MMA career as they offer that weight class. Unfortunately, in the UFC,you can either fight as a strawweight at 115 pounds or a bantamweight, which jumps all the way up to 135 pounds. It's easier for Jędrzejczyk to cut weight right before a fight than to gain 10 pounds of muscle.
Still, getting down to the required weight isn't easy. "For a while, I didn't have a good doctor and knowledge about proper nutrition so I would cut weight and end up breaking bones during fights," Jędrzejczyk says. "I just wasn't doing it right."
Now, Jędrzejczyk has found a whole new team of experts who've made this necessary part of professional fighting a much healthier experience. "I work with the best in the business now and feel great and strong," she says. "I can easily cut 10 to 15 pounds without feeling like I'm killing myself. So often we see fighters starving themselves and that doesn't serve them well at the night of the fight."
Jędrzejczyk understands the importance of taking care of her body long-term. "As athletes, fighters or not, we push our bodies to the limit, but I want to be a mom someday and I won't be able to do that if I don't take proper care of myself now."
There really isn't an alternative to being the best. "Winning is like an addiction, but I'm also afraid of losing," she says. "That's why I'm not going to let that happen."
When it comes to the final countdown to a fight, Jędrzejczyk says she never feels pressure or on edge. "At that point, all the hard work is done and it's all about showing everyone who I really am," she says. "Before I step in the Octagon, I pray one last time and take a huge deep breath, and then I'm home."