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Joanna Jedrzejczyk says Claudia Gadelha is a ‘better fighter’ than Carla Esparza

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Joanna Jedrzejczyk's path to the UFC strawweight title wasn't easy. Over the span of nine crazy months, Jedrzejczyk blossomed from a little-known Muay Thai stylist into a cold-blooded, well-rounded killer, a striking savant with the surprising defensive chops to ward off two of the best takedown artists in the division. Jedrzejczyk's run to the top culminated in a flawless upset over Carla Esparza last month in Dallas, TX, and in retrospect, Jedrzejczyk noted that Esparza's vaunted wrestling attack was nothing she hadn't seen before.

"I think that Claudia (Gadelha), she's a better fighter than Esparza," Jedrzejczyk said at Friday's fan Q&A in Poland. "When I was in America, everyone was talking about Carla's wrestling, so I had it in my mind. But my wrestling is better than hers. You could see it in the fight."

Jedrzejczyk defended 16 of Esparza's 17 takedown attempts that night while outstriking Esparza by a stunning mark of 55-6, utterly stifling the former champion en route to a dramatic second-round TKO finish against the cage. The win granted Jedrzejczyk the honor of becoming the first Polish champion in UFC history, and now between her and bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, the UFC has two extremely marketable female titleholders to propel the new divisions forward.

Jedrzejczyk is herself a Rousey fan. She called the American judoka "simply the best" and predicted a Rousey win if the proposed superfight between Cristaine "Cyborg" Justino ever goes down. But although Jedrzejczyk rose through the ranks as a heavier flyweight, she doesn't anticipate moving back up for any cross-division superfights of her own.

"I'm going to stay at 115," Jedrzejczyk said. "In the future, if they're going to make a new division for 125, then I'm going to move and I'm going to be champion again. And then I will think about 135, but we will see."

Jedrzejczyk was also asked for her opinion on the upcoming featherweight blockbuster between UFC champion Jose Aldo and Irish contender Conor McGregor, and she pointed to the chaos that she and Rafael dos Anjos inflicted in Dallas as proof that anything is possible in the unpredictable sport of MMA.

"I think it's going to be an interesting fight," Jedrzejczyk said.

"Aldo is the champion, I have big respect for him. But like I said, me and (Rafael) dos Anjos, we showed that everyone can win the title, so Conor can win this fight. The better (guy) is going to win, it's going to be an interesting fight, but anything can happen."

Jedrzejczyk (9-0) admitted that life has gotten a lot busier since her time at UFC 185, but she's embracing the change with open arms and intends get back in the gym on Monday to prepare for her upcoming title defense. It's possible that the first challenger for her strawweight belt could be decided this weekend, too, as Scottish contender Joanne Calderwood is slated to meet Maryna Moroz on UFC Fight Night 64's main card.

A bout between Jedrzejczyk and Calderwood would be a stylistic dream for many fight fans, and Jedrzejczyk indicated that if Calderwood wins on Saturday, she'd be more than happy to take that fight anywhere, even if it meant traveling to Calderwood's own home city.

"I'm happy that the UFC put some strawweight fights on (this weekend's) card, I'm happy because I can watch my future opponents," Jedrzejczyk said. "So now I must run away with my belt.

"If the UFC wants me to fight in Glasgow, I will do this in Glasgow. If they want me to fight in Africa, I will fight in Africa, you know what I mean? So I don't care. I like to fight in America. Of course in the future I would like to fight here in Poland, in my country for you guys. But I like the U.S. a lot, and like I said, I'm going to do everything that the UFC wants.

"I don't feel pressure," Jedrzejczyk added. "I'm going to keep this belt. I'm so confident. I'm going to train hard and I'm just going to keep this belt for a long time."