Of all the possible culprits, who could have guessed it'd be a forkful of Italian food that'd get the ball rolling between UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and UFC Fight Night 69 opponent Jessica Penne?
Jedrzejczyk, rarely one to shy away from a little playful pre-fight banter, posted a picture this past Sunday of herself looming over a serving of penne pasta. The punny jab drew a quick response from Penne, who compared Jedrzejczyk's hunched staredown routine to Lord of the Rings character Gollum then warned Jedrzejczyk about the beatdown to come -- this after already vowing to submit the champion on a recent episode of The MMA Hour.
While Jedrzejczyk hadn't seen Penne's response when she made her own appearance on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, she couldn't help but grin after hearing her opponent's words.
"I've got some new aces in my pocket and she's going to be surprised. Really," Jedrzejczyk promised.
"I'm coming, Jessica. You [haven't] had that good of opponents in the cage. You're going to feel the Polish power. I am coming. I am the champion and I am coming. I'm coming for you, Jessica."
Jedrzejczyk and Penne are slated to dance June 20 in Berlin, Germany, a worthy replacement headliner for an event that originally featured light heavyweights Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira. The bout comes just three months after Jedrzejczyk obliterated Carla Esparza to capture the 115-pound belt at UFC 185, and will be the first title fight to air exclusively on UFC Fight Pass.
"She's a pretty good fighter, and she's No. 3 in the rankings, so I think she's the right person," Jedrzejczyk said of Penne. "So I'm very happy. I'm going to be a very interesting fight for me, for her, and for you ... because I'm very good. I'm a champion."
While Penne has never been one for the blustery side of the game, Jedrzejczyk proved mind games to be her forte at UFC 185, oozing confidence and wearing down Esparza with an array of one-liners and confrontations before making good on her word with a dominant second-round TKO.
The 27-year-old admitted Monday that she likes "this game before the fight," and if Penne wants to take that road, she'll be more than happy to indulge her.
Trash talk aside, Penne presents a formidable challenge to the champion, boasting credentials as a former Invicta atomweight titleholder and grappling skills which rank among the best in the division. Though should history repeat itself, and Jedrzejczyk emerge from Berlin with the UFC belt still strapped around her waist, she hopes that her next title defense finds its way back to the United States, where Jedrzejczyk says she's surprisingly more popular than in her native Poland.
"I'm happy that I can give part of me for my family and European friends," Jedrzejczyk said.
"[But fighting in America] is something different. I am a champion and people know me, but not really. But in America it's something different. You can feel the atmosphere, the different atmosphere. People are going to show that you're a champion and it's something different. I always have good feelings in America and I like it so much. I got more attention from U.S. fans than Polish or European, so my next fight is going to be in the U.S."
Never one to rest, Jedrzejczyk hopes to defend her title at least once more in 2015 if she can get past Penne, and conveniently enough there's already a viable No. 1 contender fight on the horizon -- UFC 190's pairing between Claudia Gadelha and Jessica Aguilar, which pits an old foe against the newest member of the UFC's strawweight division.
Jedrzejczyk narrowly upset Gadelha to earn her title shot last December, while Aguilar has been a mainstay atop the 115-pound rankings for years. Either fighter would present a fascinating stylistic match-up, though if given the choice, Jedrzejczyk wouldn't mind getting a second crack at putting any scoring controversies against Brazilian to rest.
"I would like to fight with Gadelha one more time," Jedrzejczyk said. "I want to show to everyone that I am simply the best."