It’s not uncommon for fighters to change training camps when they’re looking to raise their game to the next level, but don’t tell Jessica Andrade that it’s a necessity.
The proud Brazilian picked up the biggest win of her career Friday, taking a convincing unanimous decision over her countrywoman Claudia Gadelha after three thrilling and bloody rounds in the co-main event of UFC Japan in Saitama. For the past few years, Gadelha has long been considered the best strawweight in the world not named Joanna Jedrzejczyk and logic would dictate that the top contender spot belongs to Andrade now.
Gadelha and Andrade have both tried and failed to wrest the 115-pound title from Jedrzejczyk’s grasp, and Gadelha recently made a move from Brazil’s Nova Uniao camp to New Mexico, where she trains with coach Chris Luttrell, after a second loss to Jedrzejczyk.
Gadelha won her next two fights while training in Albuquerque, but that streak was ended when she ran into Andrade.
At the evening’s post-fight press conference, Andrade appeared to take a subtle jab at Gadelha’s decision to leave Brazil by emphasizing how staying home to train was essential to her having the advantage.
“I hope I do get to go to number one in the rankings, but the big thing here is I believe that I showed the world that with this one I can prove to everybody that you don’t need to leave your hometown, you don’t need to leave your country to become a better fighter,” Andrade said, through an interpreter. “Everything that I did, I did in Brazil. I am a Brazilian, I represent Brazil, I train there and I’m going to be a champion for Brazil.
“I want to be just like ‘Minotauro’ (former PRIDE and UFC heavyweight titleholder Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira). He did his whole career in Brazil and he did amazing just staying there and working with what he got. I’m never going to forget my roots and that’s where I’m going to be.”
Andrade appeared to be well-equipped for Gadelha in every phase of the game, both in the standup where Andrade was expected to excel and on the ground where Gadelha is widely recognized as the strongest Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner in the division.
Regardless of the position, Andrade stayed poised while finding ways to attack and score points, and she again credited her hometown team in Parana for preparing her.
“For sure, I did evolve a lot on the ground work, but this was part of the strategy as well,” Andrade said. “I’m originally from jiu-jitsu. Some people forget because at strawweight I’m able to do so well in the standup and part of the plan was to, by the end of every round, try to go for a takedown. Just try to frustrate Claudia a little bit and it worked very well.
“Back home I have a fantastic group of people helping me. I’ve got the PRVT girls, I’ve got girls of all sizes, all skill levels to help me to train and prepare for everything so they have a lot to do with this as well.”
When asked what’s next for her, Andrade said she was originally looking for a fight with Karolina Kowalkiewicz on the Oct. 21 card in Gdansk, Poland, but had to change plans when Kowalkiewicz accepted a fight with UFC newcomer Jodie Esquibel instead. She is still interested in facing Kowalkiewicz if she walks out of that encounter with her hand raised, Andrade said.