NITEROI, Brazil -- Jessica Andrade discusses her upcoming fight with Invicta FC strawweight champion Angela Hill inside the Octagon on Feb. 4, her thoughts on Hill’s USADA exemption, why she thinks she would "kill" 115-pound champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and much more.
Guilherme Cruz: Jessica, the UFC has finally booked a fight for you after everything that happened at the end of the year. How was your camp for this fight, leading with all the setbacks at the end of the year?
Jessica Andrade: Thank God I have a team that is well prepared. Despite all those setbacks we had at the end of the year, going to Las Vegas and the fight being cancelled at the eleventh hour, not being able to fight, the focus remained the same. If I didn't fight now, I’d probably fight Joanna in April or June, so training would continue the same way and I’d be well-prepared for the fight. The UFC answered my requests and gave me one last fight before the belt. Now it’s time to bite the mouthpiece, close the fists and fight.
Angela Hill showed up as a possibility for UFC 207, but had issues with the USADA on her return to the UFC. Since that happened, did you expect her to be your next opponent and started studying her game?
Yes, we thought the UFC could put her next, but there was this issue with USADA. The UFC offered her this date, Feb. 4, and she said she couldn’t because someone from her family had to undergo surgery or something like that. So I kind of forgot about this idea. But since the UFC tried to find another opponent, and I couldn't see anyone else to fight me, I thought they’d probably shorten the USADA period and put her against me. They didn’t want just any girl, and I didn’t want any girl, too. I wanted to fight a warrior, someone strong, especially Angela who’s coming with the title win in Invicta. That's bigger proof when I go there and win this fight and show the world I can fight for the belt and become the next champion.
How did you see this USADA situation? The only time the UFC did something like that was for Brock Lesnar, and it became a controversial topic because he tested positive in a drug test. Were you cool with the UFC’s decision to waive this period, or were you worried about it?
Well, I wasn't worried because Invicta is part of the UFC, and they probably do drug tests too. That's why I wasn’t worried. And if she has something in her body, that won’t make any difference because what makes the difference is doing your work well, being hungry to fight, and I think I’m hungrier than her to win. That won’t be a problem.
She was still young in MMA when she competed in the UFC, had more losses than wins. She ended up leaving for Invicta, when she did great, won several fights and won the belt. Do you think she has evolved since leaving the UFC, or she simply won more fights because she fought easier competition?
I think there’s always an evolution. When we’re coming off of a win streak like she is, there’s always evolution. But there’s also that side of ‘I'm great, I’m the champion and I’m in a winning streak’ and you get overconfident. She might come in too overconfident and that becomes a problem for her. But I’m also in constant evolution in the UFC. Every fight I fight in a different way. Many people think I’m ranked high in martial arts, but I’m a purple belt in jiu-jitsu, blue belt in muay thai and brown belt in kickboxing, so there’s still a long road ahead of me, and also for her. I think it’s going to be a great fight. I never go in there thinking that my opponent isn't that good, but I think she has evolved a lot and has her flaws that we’re working on to go there put on a good show and knock her out in the first or second round.
Her flaws are in the striking area or on the ground?
We’re studying her flaws in the stand-up area because if we go to the ground she’s not that hard to take down, so it’s easier to take her down and work there. But in the striking area, you have to be more patient to get there and do a good job.
The Invicta title is not on the line here, but will you consider yourself the unofficial Invicta champion with a win over her?
Oh, for sure. We already have a plan for after the fight, winning the fight. We tried to get a copy of the Invicta belt and I’ll put it around my waist and call Joanna out. ‘Hey, Joanna, the Invicta's is already mine, now I want the UFC’s’. It will be cool. God willing, I’ll win this fight, I’ll do that and go after the belt.
Do you think Angela should put her title on the line, since she believes she will win?
Oh, for sure. When someone truly believes she can be the champion, go for it. But I think she’s probably thinking ‘I believe in me, but Jessica is not just another one. I can’t risk it,’ But that’s normal.
A win over her guarantees you’re next against Joanna because of your winning streak and the fact that there’s no one else out there that makes sense right now. How do you see the fact that you could be fighting for the title already, but chose to fight one more time to get there better prepared?
Many people criticized me, said ‘you had the opportunity to fight for the belt and decided to fight one more time before. What if you lose?’ The strawweight division is moving constantly, so if I lose this fight, I’d recover in two or three fights again and go back to a title fight, and then I’d be way more better prepared than I already am now. I chose to do this fight also for the money, because people think we’re rich, millionaires. No. We only get paid when we fight, and we have to save money until the next fight. We have coaches to pay, trainers, different sparring partners. There’s a cost. I have to pay my rent, the house, everything. I chose to do this fight and be well financially to be able to invest in my camp to put on an excellent fight with Joanna because it's the belt. You have to be at your best for this fight. Winning this fight, I’ll be financially fine to invest in my next camp.
A fight against Joanna would be the biggest of your career. How much do you think you’d invest in a camp for her, compared to your previous ones? How do you work on the financial side of your camp?
I think that to fight Joanna and leave as champion, I wouldn't be afraid to invest everything I win. Travel to Thailand or going to another country and train harder, push harder. I think the investment is worth if it’s for a bigger reward, something bigger. If I win the belt, there will be a lot of money to invest in my career.
You and Joanna had a good relationship, the same manager, and even trained together once. How is this relationship today, since she doesn't work with your manager anymore, has changed teams. I imagine there's not much contact between you two now.
When I went down to 115 pounds, she started to act weird with me. I think she thought ‘well, Jessica will give me trouble down the road.’ Our relationship became more professional. We don't talk anymore, and she changed managers. I think the manager was what brought us closer to each other. She changed managers and the relationship we had was over. It’s professional now. But I respect her a lot, she’s an amazing fighter. She has made history in the UFC in the strawweight division, but I think it’s time for me to change the story. She’s winning a lot, it’s time to get her out of there and let the division roll.
And how will you take Joanna out of there?
Not being afraid. The other opponents go after her, but they eventually get afraid. Don’t do that. If you’re ready to fight, fight! I’ll fight her. I don’t need to respect her. I’ll do to her what Cody Garbrandt did to Dominick Cruz. I’ll attack, impose my game, and dance over her. If she does her best, I’ll do even better. But I think the hole in Joanna’s game is that weak chin. If Claudinha and Karolina knocked her down multiple times… Karolina even took her down. That means Joanna’s game is regressing because she’s focusing in other trainings and forgetting what she does best. And that's good, opens new holes for us to attack. And if Claudinha was able to knock her down with a jab, I’ll kill her with a cross. Bite the mouthpiece, get punched and punch back at the same time.