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Joanna Jedrzejczyk: Paige VanZant will 'for sure become a UFC champion’

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Esther Lin, Sportsfile

Even though Paige VanZant was outclassed by Rose Namajunas at UFC Fight Night 80 on Thursday night, she showed her mettle by withstanding punishment for nearly five rounds. How much did it stand out? Most people were buzzing about VanZant’s heart more than they were Namajunas’ superiority in the aftermath of the fight.

And at just 21 years old, there is plenty of reason to think VanZant will bounce back and learn from the experience. An emotional VanZant herself said she needed to sharpen her technique and that there was a long way to go in the post-fight press conference. She had plenty of support in the MMA community, too. One of her believers happens to be current strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who sees big things on the horizon for VanZant.

"It was an amazing fight between Paige and Rose, and a difficult fight for Paige VanZant," Jedrzejczyk said during a media day on Saturday in Las Vegas. "So Rose did well. She didn’t fight that much after TUF but she showed that she’s game. And Paige VanZant, she’s still young, but she’s very talented and she’s a bad ass. She’s got the character. She still must learn a lot, but she’s a very good fight. In the future for sure she will become a UFC champion."

With a tentative date to meet Claudia Gadelha for her next title defense, Jedrzejczyk said she was happy to see strawweight contenders beginning to deepen behind her. The Polish fighter has already defended her belt twice since winning it at UFC 185 against Carla Esparza in March.

"The strawweight division is a pretty young division, but it’s growing up," she said. "The UFC is the best organization in the world, they sign the best fighters. We’ve got the best strawweight fighters in the world, and I’m just waiting on them."

Jedrzejczyk scored a TKO victory over Jessica Penne in Berlin this summer and followed that up with a unanimous decision victory over a tough Valerie Letourneau at UFC 193. In that fight she broke her right hand, which required surgery, which will keep her on the shelf for a bit.

In Las Vegas for the big UFC 194 fight week, the 28-year old Jedrzejczyk (11-0) showed that her hand was healing nicely by demonstrating that she can make a fist to the media. Though she said there wasn’t an exact time table for her return, she said she would go back to Poland for the holidays and assess when she can get back in there.

As for the rumor that her and Gadelha would be the next coaches of The Ultimate Fighter, Jedrzejczyk said nothing was official, though she’d be open for the experience.

"I’d like to be, and it would be pleasure for me to do this," she said. "But we don’t know yet. This is what people are talking about, but I didn’t hear anything about it, so I can’t tell."