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Jessica Andrade eyes UFC return in Houston against Michelle Waterson, Karolina Kowalkiewicz or Angela Hill

UFC 203 photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jessica Andrade flew to Las Vegas in December to compete at UFC 207, but the promotion couldn’t find an opponent to step in on short notice after Maryna Moroz pulled out with an injury. Back in Brazil, “Bate Estaca” is training hard to fight as soon as possible.

Undefeated as a strawweight with a pair of finishes over Jessica Penne and Joanne Calderwood, Andrade believes no one wanted to fight her on Dec. 30 because she’s just too good.

"It was bad because I prepared for a long time to fight at UFC 207,” Andrade told MMA Fighting. "That was a great card with great fights, and I believe my fight would be great too, but unfortunately it didn't happen. When you become a good fighter, your opponents start to be afraid of you, so it’s hard to find opponents on short notice.”

The UFC hasn't decided when Andrade will be back in action, but the Brazilian is training to be ready to compete at UFC Fight Night 104, which is scheduled for Feb. 4 in Houston’s Toyota Center.

"I’m waiting for the UFC,” Andrade said. "I might fight on Feb. 4 in Houston. I’m waiting. I keep training, I never stop training. And I know that if they don’t get me a fight in Houston, I’ll definitely fight for the belt.

"They said I could fight in Houston since my December fight was cancelled, or they would find me date in March, but I told them I wanted to fight as soon as possible because (UFC champion) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk) will be ready to fight in April, so I’d fight now and go back in the gym to fight her in April."

The UFC offered Andrade the opportunity to face 115-pound titleholder Jedrzejczyk in her next bout, and the Brazilian explains why she opted to take one more fight before facing the Polish star.

"We get paid per fight and the longer I stay without fights, the longer I stay without getting paid. I have bills to pay,” Andrade said. "I believe in me and I know I would win, and then I would be prepared physically and financially to do a training camp to destroy Joanna without mercy.

"When I won my strawweight debut, everybody said I needed two or three more wins to fight for the title. I’m a top 5 now, and Joanna fought almost everyone in the top 5. I know I’m ready to fight for the belt, but I want to show everyone I can be even better prepared. I’ll be 3-0 in the division after this win, and then I want my belt.

"I don’t pay attention to people saying I don’t want to fight for the title,” she added. "I want that, but I want it on my terms. I want to be ready to go there and win. I don’t want to be just another one who got there and lost because they weren't ready. If I go there and Joanna defeats me, that’s because she’s better than me, not because I wasn't ready.”

There aren’t many options available for Andrade on Feb. 4, but she suggests strawweight bouts with Michelle Waterson, who recently beat Paige VanZant, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, who suffered her first MMA defeat in a decision against Jedrzejczyk in 2016, or Invicta FC champion Angela Hill.

"Any top 5 would be a good fight for me,” Andrade said. "Michelle Waterson or Karolina would be good options, too. Or Angela Hill, the Invicta champion. Whoever they put in front of me, I’ll be focused and ready to win."

Andrade didn’t compete at UFC 207 after all, but was inspired by one of the stars on the card to beat the current UFC champion when the time comes.

"When Joanna changed camps, I saw that she’s different,” the Brazilian said. "She’s not as aggressive as she was. She’s still fast, but she’s weird. She’s not confident. Karolina took her down, knocked her down. ‘Claudinha’ (Gadelha) knocked her down with a jab. But they stopped going forward when they got punched.

"I’m different. You can punch me in the face 10 times, I only need one punch to knock you out. I’ll do to Joanna what Cody (Garbrandt) did to (Dominick) Cruz. I’ll show what I can do, and I won’t let her do her thing."

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