In some parallel universe, Joanna Jedrzejczyk never goes on the historic run that she did as UFC strawweight champion from 2015 to 2017. But it very well could have been this universe.
Every UFC fighter’s last fight before joining the biggest stage in the sport holds significance in their career. For Jedrzejczyk, if she never got her opportunity to shine against Rosi Sexton in London, that could have been it for her time as a competitor.
“Six months before I signed with the UFC, I wanted to quit and I was really broke and I was training, there was no fights, I got new management, I signed with Invicta [FC],” Jedrzejczyk told BJPenn.com. “But there was no fights, it was a really rough time for Invicta. I was in camp for such a long time and there was no money, no sponsors. I got a little bit of money but I hit three fights with my UFC debut in three months and my life got changed. I didn’t give up.
“I won the fight in my town, some small show, and two weeks after I got a call from Cage Warriors to face Rosi Sexton, and my coaches and my manager didn’t want me [to] but they said, ‘Okay, it’s your decision,’ and I said, ‘Take this fight in two weeks, we win this fight, and we’ll sign with the UFC.’ I knock Rosi Sexton [out] in the second round, because they thought I was going to lose because Rosi Sexton was a UFC veteran, but I didn’t. Three days after the fight I got a phone call from [UFC Matchmaker] Sean Shelby and I did it. I did my UFC debut five weeks later.”
Jedrzejczyk’s win over Sexton extended her record to 6-0 at the time. Since then, the Olzstyn native has crafted a lasting legacy as the greatest 115-pound fighter of all time.
The future champion picked up two victories over Juliana Lima and Claudia Gadelha before going on an epic run that saw her defend the strawweight crown five times. At this stage in her career as a 16-4 legend, Joanna Jedrzejczyk finds herself more comfortable than she’s ever been in life. Fighting is still her passion, but it’s no longer the only passion as she’s constantly trying to expand her horizons – whether in coffee, racing, television, or many other possibilities.
During her rise to prominence, however, the amount of effort put into the sport just wasn’t rewarded as hoped.
“There was no money, you know?” Jedrzejczyk said. “Since I was a little girl, I always liked money and I wanted to make money and I was a hard worker even when I had no money. I was never a person who was complaining and I was never a jealous person. For example, I had no Nike shoes, and I was not jealous that my friend had them. I was just like, ‘Okay, one day I’ll have the Nike shoes, one day I’ll have this or that,’ and I worked my ass hard to do that but I wanted to quit because I was investing everything into the sport. At that time I was six-time Muay Thai world champion, five-time Muay Thai European champion, I had nothing – like no money. I just wanted to buy a car, buy nicer clothes, and I didn’t want to only invest when I was not getting back. So at that time, I considered quitting the sport.
“It worked out but it didn’t work out the way I wanted. But then I was like, ‘God, please give me one more chance,’ and my life got changed. It’s good to be patient. I had so many lessons. Now I don’t have to put my health and life on the line to fight for the money I get from the fights because I can make this money easy outside the gym and Octagon without putting my life and health on the line.”
Joanna Jedrzejczyk last fought in her instant classic with Zhang Weili at UFC 248 in March 2020. With over a year away from the Octagon, the former champion is now targeting a return in late August.
This article appeared first on BJPENN.COM