The finale for The Ultimate Fighter 23 on Friday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada featured a main event that's arguably one of the best women's mixed martial arts fights ever. UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk was able to retain her title in a very tough contest against Claudia Gadelha, ultimately taking a unanimous decision victory.
For the challenger, however, she wasn't so convinced she lost. The Brazilian had praise for her opponent's ability, but isn't ready to concede she's the lesser of the two.
"I was fighting to win, and then in the third round, I felt my arms were very tight. I tried to keep fighting back, but Joanna, she escapes a lot. She has good hips and she was escaping from my takedowns. That's what happened," Gadelha told the media at the post-fight press conference.
"I think every that knows what they want in life improves and gets better, fight by fight. Not only her, but every fighter that knows what they want in life gets better," she said. "She got better like I got better and a lot of other fighters get better as well. I think I'm better than her technically. If it wasn't the conditioning, I could've beaten her there."
According to Gadelha, as well as the judges, she won the first two rounds. After that, however, it gets murky. The top strawweight contender believes she won the third round. Interestingly, however, she admitted her corner did not, or, at least, told her that between rounds.
In the third, Jedrzejczyk began to come alive, stuffing takedown attempts, getting up quickly and landing a barrage of strikes. Gadelha had her moments, too, including a sensational elbow that briefly dropped the champion, but in the end, it wasn't enough.
"I thought I won the first, second and third round and lost the two last rounds," she contended. "When my corner talked to me in the fourth round, he said it was two and two and I was kinda confused because I knock her down twice - in the first and third round - and I took her down. I don't know if her striking would be better than the takedown and the knockdown that I gave her in the third round.
"I trained for five rounds two times before when I was going to fight for the Invicta title. It's hard. It's very hard, but I think training for every fight is very hard. Just a get a little bit more tiring in your body and your mind, but it's kinda the same thing."
As for her storied and angry rivalry with the champion, something featured on the television show for The Ultimate Fighter, Gadelha seems content to forgive, but perhaps not forget. More importantly, she expressed a measure of regret in not being able to demonstrate a different version of championship leadership.
"I move on," Gadelha said of what's next. "The things that she did during the show, the things she said during the show was very disrespectful when, like I said, I grew up in the BJJ philosophy. I learned to respect my opponents and the coaches. She disrespect me, she disrespect my team and my coaches and I can't accept that.
"I think it's one more fight. I learn a lot fight by fight," she continued. "This is the second loss that I take in my career. It's like I said in the Octagon: it's all about the respect. I respect Joanna as an opponent, but I don't respect her as a person. I said that too many times. The reason I wanted to get this title is to show everybody how to be a real champion, very respectful."
As for what's next, Gadelha didn't ask for a rematch, but she is ready to get back to the work. Like she mentioned, she doesn't believe she's technically outgunned. She still believes she's the technically best in the UFC's women's strawweight division. What she wants is to compete again, likely sooner rather than later, and get another crack at the top prize in the sport.
"I want to fight again. I want to prove," she told the media. "I want to get better. I want to get inside the Octagon and show that I got better and deserve another chance to the title."