It’s become one of the most unique visuals in the UFC.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz leaning against the cage, hands behind her back, a slight smirk on her face, looking all the world like she’s waiting for a bus to arrive and not about to engage another human being in hand-to-hand combat.
It’s a pose that the strawweight contender brings to every fight, whether it’s her Octagon debut against Randa Markos back in 2015, or a world title bout with the fearsome Joanna Jedrzejczyk at Madison Square Garden. As for how she maintains that composure, the 32-year-old Kowalkiewicz can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that causes such a calm to wash over her.
“I don’t know why,” Kowalkiewicz said on The MMA Hour on Monday. “For me, the Octagon is the safest place in the world. I feel very good when I’m there and I’m very focused and I’m happy because I do what I love.”
Kowalkiewicz gets the chance to return to her safe place when she returns to Poland to face Jodie Esquibel at the Ergo Arena in the co-main event of UFC Gdasnk this Saturday. The 32-year-old native of Lodz is looking to get back in the win column after losing a five-round unanimous decision to Jedrzejczyk at UFC 205 and following that up with a submission loss to Claudia Gadelha, the only time Kowalkiewicz has been finished in 12 pro bouts.
Though she’s not getting to headline in her home country and she’s been matched up with a newcomer ranked significantly lower than her, Kowalkiewicz is still finding reasons to keep her rosy disposition and her focus.
“No, no, I’m not disappointed,” Kowalkiewicz said when asked how she felt about not being booked in the main event. “I am very happy because I fight on the UFC in Gdansk and for me this is something big. I’m very happy.”
“I approached this fight as a world championship fight,” Kowalkiewicz continued. “Jodie is a newcomer, but we are all newcomers before. … I think she’s very determined.”
Kowalkiewicz has been front and center for some memorable moments of UFC trash talk, including the now classic clip of Conor McGregor verbally burying Jeremy Stephens at a press conference in New York last year. However, you won’t catch Kowalkiewicz engaging in much trash talk herself, as she says that’s simply “not my style.”
She won’t even offer a prediction for the Nov. 4 strawweight title bout between Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas, despite having gone the distance with both of them.
“I don’t know. Really, I don’t know. 50-50,” Kowalkiewicz said. “Joanna, she’s the best fighter in the world, but Rose is a great fighter, too. She’s very young. … I’m with Rose and I’m with Joanna. I like Rose very much, she’s a great person, very nice. And Joanna, she’s Polish. So Joanna and Rose.”
As much as Kowalkiewicz respects Jedrzejczyk, the feeling hasn’t always been mutual and Kowalkiewicz isn’t exactly sure why that’s the case. When pressed on the matter, she did suggest that it could have been her fourth-round knockdown of Jedrzejczyk during their UFC 205 encounter that has contributed to the lingering tension between them.
“Maybe because I smashed her face a little bit,” Kowalkiewicz said, with a laugh.