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Jessica Andrade explains war bonnet, breaks down Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk rematch

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NITEROI, Brazil — Jessica Andrade sat down with MMA Fighting in Brazil to discuss her recent win over Tecia Torres, meeting soccer superstar Marta prior to UFC on FOX 28 in Orlando, her thoughts on the UFC 223 rematch between strawweight champion Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, why she wears war bonnet before and after her fights, and much more.

Watch the video interview above (click on the CC button for English translations), or read the transcript below.

You’re coming off another win in the UFC, another step towards your dream of winning the UFC belt. How special was that week for you, especially for the things that happened before the fight?

It was one of the best weeks I’ve ever had before a fight. Thank God I did a great job here in Brazil with master Parana and the PRVT Girls. My wife takes care of my diet and is with me all day, hanging through my stress. The camp and fight week were great. I had the opportunity to meet Marta, one of my biggest idols, and it was perfect. Everything went right. I was in Orlando, and it was also one of my dreams to visit Disney, and I went after the fight. It was a wonderful week.

I knew that it would be a really tough fight like it was. Tecia was coming off three wins, 10 wins and one loss in her last 11 fights, so it was a great fight. She was a really tough opponent. I knew that it would be tough in the striking area and thank God it was a great fight. It was a wonderful week, many cool things happened. The open workout was really cool. I could see that I have a lot of fans in Orlando, many people rooting for me. It was awesome.

What does this jersey and soccer ball, autographed by Marta, represent to you? Did you have any idea that she would be there, or was it a surprise?

I didn’t know when I got there, and I think that (UFC official) Lilian (Caparroz) went to talk to me and kind of let it slip, or maybe she didn’t want to really surprise me. She said ‘Jessica, the girls went out to buy a soccer ball because Marta will be here. She’s from Orlando. She heard about your story, already sent a video for you, and she wants to meet you.’ I was like ‘damn, I can’t believe I’ll meet Marta.’

I looked at Fernanda and said ‘baby, is that really it? Is Marta really coming to see me? Damn.’ She said they would bring a ball for us to play, and I said ‘oh my, I haven’t played soccer in a long time it will be embarrassing.’ And it really was embarrassing. I kicked the ball far away, it wasn’t even close, while she did kick-ups with regular boots. I could see that she’s a simple person, with a humble heart, really nice woman. She went to the fight and cheered for me. I could listen to her screaming ‘go, Jessica! For the love of God, don’t give up!’ She celebrated when I got takedowns and all that. It’s priceless to get an autographed ball and jersey from her. I think that’s a dream come true. Meeting Marta, being there with her.

She took us out to dinner after the fight to celebrate, hung out with us. She went back to Brazil the next day, but friendship continues. That’s really nice, to be friends with your idol and being there, talking to her. That’s priceless. Meeting Marta was one of the best things that ever happened in my life, and knowing that we’re similar to each other. The training aspect, as a human being. We’re really similar. I was like ‘I really think I really got something from you.’ Everything she does is what I do here for the gym, for the guys, helping everybody, being friends, chatting, and showing that no matter where I am, I will always stay with my foot on the ground and remember my origins, where I came from and where I am. She’s like that, and it was a dream to meet her.

MMA has given you so many things, but is it still surreal to think that Marta went there for you? An idol going out to meet a fan, to give you gifts and talk to you?

I never imagined in my life that one day I’d meet Marta. I had this dream. I used to tell my mother ‘one day I’ll be like Marta,’ but I never said ‘mom, one day I’ll meet Marta,’ because I never thought this dream would possibly happen. And when it happened, when she sent me a video, I said ‘damn, she has watched me, she knows me, she knows who I am.’ Seeing her go there to meet me was a real dream. Meeting Marta, who she is as a person, and hanging out with her, seeing her watch my fight, screaming and cheering for me, being proud of me the same way I am proud of her, that’s priceless. It was really cool. I never imagined that.

Fighting has given me that, meeting my idols, meeting Marta and Falcao, being with my master Parana, who’s one of my idols, an amazing guy. Oh my, I hope I can make more dreams come true. Going to Disney was one of my dreams, too. One of my childhood dreams. Meeting Marta was one of my childhood dreams, and I met her. Going to Disney one day was one of my childhood dreams, and I went. Wow, everything went right.

You’ve met Falcao and Marta. What’s the next soccer idol you want to meet now?

Oh, I think Neymar would be a nice guy I’d like to meet. Messi, too. Cristiano Ronaldo. I think they are guys that their lives would encourage me. They would be nice people to meet and know more about their stories, to evolve and grow more with their stories. I think it would be cool to meet them.

After meeting Marta, you entered the Octagon and got the job done, scoring another victory and moving one step closer to the belt. Did the fight play out the way you expected or did something surprise you?

Look, I knew that it would be a really tough fight, but Tecia really surprised me early in the first round. Like I always say, we go in there with the theory in our heads, everything planned, but after the first punch thrown you say ‘damn, it won’t work,’ and you have to change your entire strategy. That really happened in this fight. It would be hypocritical for me to say that the fight went exactly the way I imagined it would. It wasn’t. It was really tough, it was really hard.

She surprised me a lot in round one. I never imagined I wouldn’t be able to hit her with punches, that she would move so well. We knew that she would hit and move out, but my first punch didn’t land and I said ‘damn, I’m lost again, how am I going to get to her?’ I hit her with one or two and she hit three. I didn’t feel the punches, of course, it hard for me to really feel it, but the fact that she was hitting me was already frustrating me because she was hitting me and I wasn’t hitting her. In the end of the first round, when I took her down and worked on ground and pound, I was like ‘ok, now I found myself, now I know what I have to do. Since I’m not finding her on the feet, I’ll take her down and try to knock her out with some ground and pound or submit her,’ but the strategy really was to try to knock her out standing and end the fight quickly, to put on a great fight, but it wasn’t possible.

I almost gave Brazilians another heart attack, but everything went right in the end and I was able to get the fight to the ground and be where I wanted, working with what I do every day here in the gym.

It was expected that you’d fight for the UFC title next if you won. Do you think that performance cemented that for you?

I don’t think so. I think it should really be a great performance for the UFC to say ‘Jessica is next in line for the title,’ like me knocking her out in the first round or submitting her or something like that. But it was a good fight. It wasn’t a bad fight, but something was missing. I gave a chance for me not being next for the title.

Maybe they see what Karolina (Kowalkiewicz) does in her next fight and give her the chance. My goal is to wait for what the UFC does next. I know I won the fight, but it wasn’t the way I wanted.

Dana White, Reed (Harris) and everyone from the company complimented me, but deep inside I felt something was missing. Now I’ll wait for Namajunas’ fight with Joanna, see who wins, and then see what the UFC wants to do. If they will give me the opportunity, if they will give it to Karolina, if they will give me someone else to fight with. We’ll wait. But I don’t want to wait much longer.

You once again used a war bonnet before and after the fight. I wanted you to explain the story behind this new tradition you created, bringing your roots to the Octagon.

I think it’s really cool to represent my country with something that relates to it. We might think we don’t, but everyone descends from native Brazilians. When Portuguese arrived here, everyone was native Brazilians, so I have that in my blood. My great grandmother was caught in the woods, a pure native Brazilian, and I thought ‘well, nothing more beautiful than to represent your roots, your origin, where you came from, your strength.’ I seek that when I’m walking out fight.

When I put the war bonnet on, I think ‘it’s time now, I’m going to war, going to hunt.’ I imagine myself like a native Brazilian going to hunt, and everything works in the end. I feel the strength, the energy from not only the Brazilians, but my ancestors, my religion. When I get in there, I’m hard as a rock and nothing hurts me. (...) It’s great to know that you’re representing something you believe in in there. I truly believe in the Brazilian people, our strength, our desires.

When I put the war bonnet on I say ‘I’m going after my dream now, the dream of every Brazilian of being a warrior.’ I go with everything I have there, and it’s my time.

This warrior version of you, the one that believes your next step is the belt, how does she think it’s going to be the rematch between Joanna and Rose Namajunas?

I can’t give you a definitive answer of who will win this fight because Joanna, we know she’s a tough, an incredible fighter, and has a fight style that is different than everyone else, but she had no time to show that against Namajunas. Who knows if she can do that now, and then it might get harder for Namajunas. But Namajunas also showed that she’s a superior fighter. She was very confident, connected good punches and Joanna felt it. Something happened in there and she couldn’t do anything anymore. This fight is tough to predict and know who will win.

Of course, I’m rooting for Namajunas. She’s an example of person as a champion, has represented the UFC well as a woman, so I’m rooting for Namajunas. But if Joanna wins, maybe I’ll have an opportunity to have my rematch. But if Namajunas wins, maybe they give the opportunity to Karolina, depending on what she does in her fight. They will fight at the same event, the same night, so it’s up in the air. Who will be next, Jessica or Karolina? I’m hoping it’s me.

If it’s you next you’re using the war bonnet, so whoever wins already knows that they will have to fight a warrior, right?

Absolutely, they will have the warrior version of Jessica. I have a hatmaker now, this kid that does the war bonnets, and every time I fight I’ll wear a different color. This is the one I used now, and my next one will be different. He can do it the way we can, so it will be something cool to go there and make the difference, show the true spirit and strength of the native Brazilian and represent well.

Did you have to ask the UFC for get clearance for this? Sometimes they ban these type of things in the Reebok era. Did they have to approve this?

Yes, they did. For every fight. The first fight I used this war bonnet was the toughest one to get clearance because it was something new, different, and they didn’t know why I wanted to use the war bonnet. Especially in Japan, it was so different. But after that it got easier. They already knew what it was. I just had to send them a picture of the war bonnet, so they would see that it wouldn’t give them any problem, and they cleared it.

I’m officially the tribal chief now, like the Brazilian TV guys said. It will be good to represent the UFC as a tribal chief. It will be alright.