Michelle Waterson is calling it the biggest fight of her career.
In the main event of UFC Tampa, she is taking on former UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and the winner could very well be getting the next title shot.
While this is a massive fight for Waterson, it wasn’t her first choice. After her win over Karolina Kowalkiewicz, she was hoping for a title shot against Jessica Andrade. However, UFC President Dana White said she wasn’t ranked high enough at seven, and instead gave the opportunity to Weili Zhang, who held the number six spot in the rankings.
Waterson was understandably disappointed with this development.
“Of course I was disappointed as it was something I was asking for,” Waterson told BJPENN.com. “But, you know I gotta play the cards I am dealt, so onward and upward and I am honored and blessed to fight Joanna who has really cemented herself in the strawweight division in itself. A win over her should leave no question as far as me fighting for the belt next.”
Jedrzejczyk claims she’s been promised a title shot with a victory over Waterson. Waterson hasn’t received this assurance, but is confident she’ll get a title shot with a win. She also believes the UFC sees a lot of value in the strawweight division.
“That should be a given [that the winner gets a title shot]. Definitely it should be. I appreciate the UFC seeing the value in the strawweight division. In my opinion, I see the strawweight division as the most stacked on the entire roster,” Waterson explained. “We don’t have to go out there and get in each other’s faces and talk crap because we go in there in the Octagon and throw down. We finish fights with submissions, TKO’s, with hulk smashes and we are 115’ers and we bring the heat. The UFC sees that and so does the rest of the world and it is amazing.”
To get the title shot she so desires, Michelle Waterson will need to beat Jedrzejczyk, which is easier said than done. The former champ has only two losses in the UFC at strawweight, both to Rose Namajunas. However, Waterson believes she has the skillset to defeat her.
“I envision fights every day. When I am not physically training, I’m mentally training. I envision it going all sorts of ways,” Waterson explained. “I envision it being stopped in the first round. It going one round, two rounds, three rounds, four rounds, five rounds. I envision it being a standup war, I envision us up against the cage. I envision us grappling. But, each envisioning, I see my hand getting raised, regardless.”
Waterson believes her versatility will be the key to success against Jedrzejczyk. She knows she can strike with the former champ, but don’t be surprised if grappling becomes a part of this fight.
“The game plan is to win the fight. It is MMA, and Joanna is an amazing striking and I would love to stand and strike with her,” she said. “But, the beautiful thing is, I am a true mixed martial artist so that wherever the fight goes I can hold my own.”
In the end, Waterson is confident she will win this fight and be fighting for the belt next.
“I think every fight prepares me for the next fight,” Waterson concluded. “All my wins have led me up to his fight and prepared me to fight Joanna and winning over her will prepare me to fight Weili or whoever the champ is when I fight for the belt.”
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This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/07/2019.