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Joanna Jedrzejczyk vows to return ‘stronger’, hopes for title rematch

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Joanna Jedrzejczyk was the first championship domino to fall on Saturday night, and she was also the first to come out and address the media afterwards. Even if it is just the way the UFC 217 post-fight presser was scheduled, one gets the sense that she would have no issue leading off even after having suffered a TKO loss to Rose Namajunas earlier in the evening that cost her the UFC strawweight crown.

It was supposed to be a coronation at Madison Square Garden for Jedrzejczyk, who thrilled the legendary New York City venue with a commanding five-round win over Karolina Kowalkiewicz just 12 months earlier and was seeking a sixth title defense that would tie her with Ronda Rousey for the most by any female fighter in UFC history; instead, her reign atop the 115-lb division came to an end.

Jedrzejczyk had built up a healthy rivalry with Namajunas during the leadup to their fight, but scoffed at the suggestion that her emotions may have affected her performance in a negative way. She specifically mentioned wanting to avoid comparisons to Rousey, who received similar criticism after being upset by Holly Holm.

“No, no, please, don’t compare me to Ronda Rousey. I love her so much and we have a very good relationship but please, let’s leave this bulls**t away,” Jedrzejczyk said at the post-fight press conference. “I never take fights personal and I’m not emotional when I’m fighting. Everything went so smooth during this camp, it was a very long camp, for 13 weeks I was training with American Top Team. Just a big surprise and this is what happens.

“Big congrats to Rose. I’m happy for her, but I will be back stronger. It was not personal. The things which happen before the fight have nothing to do with this fight. It was a good punch, she cut me off, I really don’t know what happened. It’s the fight, you know? We take this risk.”

Though Jedrzejczk had received her strongest promotional push yet and increased her mainstream visibility considerably, she didn’t think her media obligations were distracting in the slightest.

Asked what could be next for her, Jedrzejczyk expects to get a chance to regain her title.

“I must sit and talk to Dana and the UFC,” she said. “I think I’ve been a good athlete and good champion for the UFC. That’s it. I think I deserve the rematch, if I will not get the rematch, we’ll see.”

“I want my belt back and that’s the thing, it’s probably going to be the biggest goal right now to get my belt back because s**t happens everywhere, so it was a mistake, it was a big surprise,” Jedrzejczyk added later. “I cannot say it was a lucky punch. She had a very good gameplan for this, she cut me off, that’s it, but this night was crazy, it was a pleasure for me to fight at the Garden, back to New York City to fight at UFC 217. It was not a lucky night for me, Cody (Garbrandt), and Michael (Bisping), but we are professional athletes, we moving forward.”

Jedrzeczyk was one of three champions to fall at UFC 217, with Garbrandt losing the bantamweight strap to T.J. Dillashaw in the co-main event, and Michael Bisping dropping his middleweight belt to Georges St-Pierre to close out the show. Unlike her male counterparts who were seeking their first and second title defenses respectively, Jedrzejczyk was well on her way to cleaning out her division.

That meant possibly moving up to the soon-to-be-formed women’s flyweight division to challenge the winner of the 26th season of The Ultimate Fighter, but now that Jedrzejczyk has seen her unbeaten streak snapped, her focus appears to be solely on redeeming herself against Namajunas.

That, and getting some much needed rest and relaxation.

“I will have some holiday with my family,” Jedrzejczyk said. “I will fly back home - I was pretty busy for the last year - so I will fly home to Poland just hang out with my parents, my family, and we will see. I have so many things going on. I work with WME-IMG, with (executive) Brad Slater, it’s a pleasure for me. I have my manager in Poland, we have so many plans.

“I just lost the title, I lost the belt, okay, maybe I’m crying now but I’m not going to cry - like I said, I will turn the page and I will be back stronger. It’s not going to change me as an athlete or as a person.”