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Michelle Waterson: I want to be the first to beat Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Michelle Waterson still has a considerable roadblock in her way in the form of Rose Namajunas.

But despite her impending UFC on FOX 24 matchup, “The Karate Hottie” has two simple goals for 2017. First, get a shot at Joanna Jedrzejcyzk’s UFC strawweight title, then, end the champion’s unbeaten run and shatter her near-invincible aura.

“My goal for 2017 is to fight for the title,” Waterson said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I would like to be the first [to defeat Jedrzejcyzk].”

It’s been a whirlwind few months for Waterson. After missing quite a bit of time due to injury, Waterson returned at December’s UFC on FOX card in Sacramento and spoiled the party for hometown hero Paige VanZant with a first-round submission.

That fight was the most-watched UFC television card in three years, and the company has put Waterson on the front burner, giving her media days at major events and putting her right back into the spotlight.

The JacksonWink competitor is doing her best to ride the wave.

“It’s all the same to me,” Waterson said. “I think it’s just something you have to expect coming along with the territory. It’s just something that we knew was probably going to happen when I beat Paige. It’s whatever comes with the territory and I”m excited. It’s a very exciting opportunity and I’m enjoying the moment.”

There was little hesitation for Waterson when the co-feature bout with Namajunas was offered. Not only was the fight a near-perfect scenario, but she also stayed in the gym and was ready when the call came.

“My fight with Paige was a quick fight, we had a good camp there we no injuries during the camp or during the fight,” Waterson said. “I had time afterwards to enjoy my family, I did some traveling, but I continued to stay in the gym. I had other teammates getting ready for fights and stuff. So I felt like I was able to get a little rest on my brain, but I was able to get better physically and continue to go with my momentum coming off my win over Paige.”

And while Waterson felt she was ready to go straight from PVZ to a title shot, she’s fine with the idea of proving herself once and for all.

“We had talked about it, we were open for whatever they gave me,” Waterson said. “But we’re excited with whatever opportunity the UFC gives me. I think Rose is an excellent matchup. Both of us fought Paige, and Rose is ranked higher than me, so if there’s anybody that I need to fight to show the UFC I’m ready for the title shot, I think Rose is a great opponent.”

Namajunas has done her best to personalize Saturday night’s fight in Kansas City. She called Waterson out seemingly as soon as Waterson defeated VanZant. But thus far, Waterson isn’t taking the bait.

“I don’t think I’m the type of person to take things personally,” Waterson said. “I have a lot of respect for Rose and out of all the girls she’s probably one of my favorites in the division. But you know at the end of the day, it is what it is, we’re all going to have to fight each other eventually. It’s refreshing just to hear my name come out of somebody’s mouth because that means I’m on their radar.”

If you’ve just tuned into the MMA scene, you’d be forgiven for thinking of Waterson as an overnight success. But that’s simply not the case. The former Invicta atomweight champion has been at this for a decade. Maybe that’s we she’s handling the events of the past several months with such aplomb.

“I’ve come to realize everyone has their own journey, and this is my journey,” Waterson said. “And I’m grateful to have the experience in the shadows, because it’s made me the fighter I am today.”

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