Once the UFC opened up the women’s flyweight division many thought it’d be a great opportunity for some of the women in the strawweight and bantamweight divisions to perform at their peak. Such was the case for former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and former bantamweight title challenger, Valentina Shevchenko.
Fittingly enough, Jedrzejczyk and Shevchenko are meeting at UFC 231 for the vacant flyweight title in a rivalry that has already experienced three Muay Thai fights for the two women. Shevchenko has three wins over Jedrzejczyk in Muay Thai but both women have put those fights behind them leading up to their title fight. Jedrzejczyk has said she believes a win over Shevchenko, which would make her a champion in a second weight class, would give her legendary status for her career.
As Jedrzejczyk prepares to move up from 115 to 125 pounds, her strength and conditioning coach Phil Daru of American Top Team has been tasked with handling the move up. In an interview with BJPenn.com, Daru spoke about what changes were made and what the main focus was in preparing Jedrzejczyk for her move up.
Speaking on her previous training camps and the difference in the beginning, Daru talked about how they didn’t have to lock in on the weight cut early in the training process.
“The greatest thing about is we didn’t have to worry too much about her weight. she normally walks around at 138 so in the past [at strawweight] with four weeks out, we’d have to focus on the weight cut and that’s an issue when you’re trying to progress an athlete.”
“For me, i was able to alter our training oppose to what we did for strawweight. now we have the ability, we can actually build a bit of muscle and turn it to strength which will turn into power once we gain that strength.”
Already having experience in working with fighters moving up in weight, Daru says his work with Dustin Poirier moving up has helped witih Jedrzejczyk’s training.
“It’s been a good overall camp. i think we were able to do a lot more with her strength training and training volume because she has the calories and ability to recover.”
“She was enjoying herself, which is also a great thing. i did the same thing with poirier in his move to 155, and they’ve enjoyed the training more. now, she’s even more excited for the fight and to get the belt.”
Not having to focus on the weight cut has been huge for this camp according to Daru, so much so that Jedrzejczyk is lighter heading into this fight than her previous fights at strawweight.
“She’s not too big for the weight class, she’s coming up for it. she’s actually lighter for this than when she fought at 115 and i think a lot of that has to do with stress. the elimination of overall stress in her body because she doesn’t have to worry about making weight so now the weight is coming off easier.”
Although the training has been better and Jedrzejczyk’s weight cut hasn’t been the focus, Daru believes that her championship mindset will make her want to go back to strawweight as well in hopes of getting the strawweight title she had until Rose Namajunas defeated her for it.
“joanna is down to fight at any weight class at any time. obviously i’m going to give her my opinion and she does value it, but at the same time she’s going to do what she wants to do. yes i do wish that she would stay at 125, we have a lot of room to grow and it’s a lot easier on her.”
“Joanna wants to be the best in the world, she believes she’s the best in the world. whatever challenges are put ahead of her, she’s going to try and accomplish them. so going back to 115 and getting her belt back and maybe possibly even beating rose [namajunas] would solidify her and make her at peace.”
“Then she can go off into the sunset and open up that coffee shop she’s been talking about in poland.”
Being able to focus on maintaining and building strength rather than weight cutting in her new weight class has seemingly been fun for Daru and Jedrzejczyk in their camp for this upcoming fight, which leads to a happy team. This happy team has now locked in on the focus of grabbing the flyweight title.
In her new weight class with no stress in her body, Phil Daru expects Joanna to dominate like a true professional.
“I just expect her to be dominant, to be the true professional she is, be the veteran she is and really pick this girl apart. just dominate, that’s what i always expect.”
“It’s funny, I fought for 8 years and i get more nervous for the fighters I train than I ever got nervous. for joanna, when the lights go on, she turns it up. this is where you kind of separate the good fighters from the PHENOMENAL ones, and i know she is that.”