Heading into her co-main event fight against Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 212 on Saturday night, Claudia Gadelha had just two losses on her record. Both came against current strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
That means a return fight against Jedrzejczyk is going to be tough to come by, even if Gadelha did score a first round submission victory over Kowalkiewicz (rear-naked choke).
So where does the 28-year old Brazilian stack up after winning her fourth fight in the UFC?
“I consider myself the best fighter in the division,” Gadelha said at the UFC 212 post-fight press conference. “But I think a few things are missing that I needed to do to perform well inside of the Octagon. And that’s why I decided to change everything in my life. It has not been easy to leave my comfort zone. Ten years living in Rio, I went abroad alone, nobody there. Training with different trainers.
“It’s very, very tough, but I got to a point in my career where I felt I needed to improve and to become the fighter that I wanted to be, and that I desired to be.”
Gadelha relocated to New Mexico recently after parting ways with Nova Uniao. In Albuquerque she did her primary training at Luttrell-Yee Academy, and also did work at Jackson-Wink.
Asked to talk about the uncomfortable idea of being in limbo with an 0-2 record against Jedrzejczyk, Gadelha talked about righting some wrongs that occurred, specifically for the second fight.
Upon reflection, she said she made some wholesale lifestyle changes after losing her title shot 11 months ago. That’s the only loss she’ll concede.
“It doesn’t bother me at all to talk about that,” she said. “We’re in a sport where you can win and you can lose at anytime. Of course, we always want positive results, but we can’t always get that.
“And about my two defeats to Joanna, I only believe there is one. There’s two on paper, but if you were to analyze the fight, I did not lose that first fight to her. The second fight I really did lose, but if you were to look technically at it, I have better technique, and better MMA technique. I’m not a better striker, but I’m a better MMA fighter than Joanna. But I trained incorrectly to fight with her.”
Gadelha elaborated on what she meant, saying she pushed too hard in her training.
“I killed myself,” she said. “I trained for 17 weeks in my camp, killing my body. I was destroyed, I couldn’t even stand up. I was killing my body. I’m that kind of Brazilian. I never give up, and I always give my best at all times. And sometimes giving your best is not the right thing. You have to follow the recipe or it’s not going to come out right. That’s exactly what I did in the second fight against Joanna.
“How do I see myself in the division today, I believe I’ve got the No. 1 ranking, at least on paper. Joanna is the champion. I have all the tools to beat her, but I needed to do what I did to reinvent myself, to be able to improve and to find what was missing in my game, as far as my cardio, my patience.”
Jedrzejczyk is coming off of a resounding unanimous decision victory over Jessica Andrade at UFC 211, which took place in March. She is now a perfect 14-0 with five title defenses. One possible scenario for her next title defense is the 24-year old Rose Namajunas, who has won four of her last five fights, including a second-round submission over Michelle Waterson in April.