Former UFC strawweight champion Jessica Andrade almost got a title eliminator against Michelle Waterson when Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s weight made her a question mark.
The UFC approached Andrade’s team when Jedrzejczyk struggled to slim down ahead of UFC Tampa, and a possible fight with Michelle Waterson was on the table. But then Jedrzejczyk made weight, and the Brazilian went back to plotting her return.
Andrade, who lost the UFC strawweight title to Weili Zhang in August, is still interested in fighting Waterson next. Her No. 1 pick, Nina Ansaroff decided to take a year off to have a baby. Andrade’s manager Tiago Okamura also told MMA Fighting that Waterson is a match-up they are very interested in.
“Waterson just fought against Joanna, and there’s also Angela Hill, which would be a rematch,” Andrade told MMA Fighting. “But she’s coming off a win, so I don’t know if the UFC would book this fight. (Waterson) would definitely interest me, but since she just fought, I don’t know if she would be down to fighting again so quickly. That would be more for January or February.”
Andrade also plans to become a mother in 2020. But in her case, her wife Fernanda Gomes will have the child.
“I would like to fight again this year, even if it’s at the last card of the year in South Korea,” Andrade said. “Let’s wait and see what the UFC has to offer. I never pick opponents, so whoever they bring, I’m in.”
More than two months removed from her title loss in China, Andrade knows went wrong against Zhang. She said she was overaggressive and didn’t following the strategy she had trained to execute.
“I was super well-trained and prepared, but her hand landed first,” Andrade said. “The fight started, and I connected a few strikes and she moved backward. That’s when I thought, ‘That’s it, I got her,’ and when I went back to that super-aggressive-Jessica, throwing hands at will, that’s when she landed. She got me nice on the chin and rocked me. She was better than me.
“I have to work on that now, this anxiety of always being aggressive and looking for the finish at all times. I have to evolve and grow as a fighter, like I was going into this fight. I’ll keep working hard until I have my rematch, and then I’ll show everyone what I had planned for her.”
The most painful part of the whole experience in Shenzhen, from moving her camp to the UFC Performance Institute in Shanghai to fighting in Asia, wasn’t the knockout loss itself, but seeing Zhang walk away with the championship belt.
“I lost the belt, but I haven’t lost anything I’ve achieved in the UFC and for my country,” Andrade said. “The only thing that really hurt was seeing the belt around her waist instead of mine. My master [Gilliard Parana] and Fernanda were there to remind me that we built a great story in the UFC, and no one can take that away from me. We’ll win the belt again, no doubt. It was sad, but we had happy moments, too.”
If she can play matchmaker for the strawweight title picture, Andrade gives Jedrzejczyk the next shot at Zhang. But she isn’t sure if the Polish star can regain the 115-pound title.
“A fight with Joanna would be very interesting,” Andrade said. “Joanna is one of the best in the division, and she has evolved a lot, as we saw in her last fight. Weili Zhang is very strong, is really fast on the feet, so I it would be really interesting.
“It’s a hard one to predict who would win, but I’d bet on Weili Zhang. I think she would continue to reign, because of her strength. Even though she’s not the type of fighter that goes for takedowns and prefers to stay on the feet, she’s very strong and kicks really hard – something Joanna doesn’t handle that well.”