Jennifer Maia successfully defended the Invicta FC flyweight championship against Agnieszka Niedzwiedz on Dec. 8, and was close to facing one of the best fighters in the world shortly thereafter.
Maia was happy with her performance against Niedzwiedz in Kansas City, scoring her sixth straight victory in MMA, but admits that the previously unbeaten Pole was better than she expected.
"I thought it would be easier,” Maia told MMA Fighting. "We watched her previous fights, her game, but I think she trained harder than I imagined. She evolved more than I imagined for this fight. Her striking has evolved a lot more compared to her previous fights."
The Brazilian flyweight hasn’t watched the five-round fight yet, but was confident that she deserved the victory when it was over. One of the reasons that Maia knows her performance was good, she says, is that the UFC reached out to her team afterward offering a fight with Valentina Shevchenko at UFC Belem on Feb. 3.
"I was super happy,” Maia said. "That’s another step in the right direction in my career. It was very cool that they made the offer.”
Maia was “super happy,” but ultimately turned down the offer from the UFC.
"They offered me this fight, but I thought it was too close to my fight,” said Maia, who would have eight weeks to prepare for Shevchenko after a 25-minute title defense in Invicta FC.
In the end, Shevchenko was matched up against UFC newcomer Priscila Cachoeira.
"Valentina is a very tough opponent, a former title contender in the UFC who is going down to flyweight now. I just got out of a fight and I need some time to rest and recover before training for someone like Valentina,” Maia said.
"I accept to fight her, but if given more time. I spoke with my coaches and decided to wait. I didn’t get injured in the fight, but it’s necessary to get some rest before you come back with full focus, especially against Valentina, a super tough opponent."
The 15-4-1 talent from Chute Boxe, who holds victories over the likes of Jessica Andrade, Roxanne Modafferi, Vanessa Porto and Zoila Frausto, is now targeting a return to action around March or April of 2018, and she doesn’t believe that return will be under the Invicta FC banner.
"I expect my next fight to be in the UFC,” Maia said.