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Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s head coach thought she deserved the win, welcomes immediate rematch with Zhang Weili

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Mike Brown knew he was watching a compelling contest of wills between his fighter Joanna Jedrzejczyk and strawweight champion Zhang Weili at UFC 248. But the only thing on his mind during the fight was trying to secure the win.

Unfortunately, after five hard-fought rounds in a fight hailed as one of the greatest in the history of the sport, Jedrzejczyk still came up short in a split decision loss to Zhang.

“It was a tough pill to swallow at the end,” Brown told MMA Fighting on Monday. “All the hard work and coming so close, but in the end, falling just short.”

The back-and-forth war ended with Jedrzejczyk and Zhang pummeling each other with nearly 400 combined strikes over 25 minutes. The championship battle was universally praised by fans, media and fighters alike. Brown’s primary concern wasn’t earning “Fight of the Night” honors, but rather making sure Jedrzejczyk left with the strawweight title around her waist.

“It’s so hard to feel and understand how good it is when you’re involved in it,” Brown said. “Kind of like as a fighter, too, you’re just reacting. You’re just doing your best to see where you’re at and think what’s next and what’s the score. So it’s hard to get a grasp of how exciting it was.

“Obviously, I knew it was an exciting fight, but I didn’t look at it that way. I’m just trying to figure out what’s next.”

The final result in the fight was a split decision with Zhang retaining her title, although Jedrzejczyk has enjoyed the endorsement of high profile fighters like Conor McGregor and Valentina Shevchenko, who said she deserved the win.

As her head coach, Brown is biased in saying he believed Jedrzejczyk should have gotten the nod. But he’s absolutely not calling the decision a robbery.

“It was just so tough to score the rounds,” Brown said. “I was just focused on that. When I’m coaching a fight, I put each round into three categories: ours, theirs, or undecided...anybody’s round. I like to do that any time it’s close. Then you have to think about a bad judge calling this for which side. You’ve got to be loose when you’re scoring fights as a coach, because that’s going to decide how your athlete attacks the rest of the fight.

“I always err on the side of caution. Like the first two [rounds], I didn’t know. They were undecided. The only one that was easy to score, I thought, was the third round. The other ones I wasn’t sure.”

The non-stop slugfest between champion and challenger made scoring the fight a very difficult job for the judges sitting cageside. There were a few moments when Brown felt like Jedrzejczyk might have gotten the edge to win some of the closer rounds, but it was still an impossibly tough fight to score.

“I think [rounds] four and five again were similar, where I thought we were winning the rounds but by a slight margin, and I knew it could go either way,” Brown said. “Then I look at the damage, too, and it doesn’t look good. I was concerned about that. It’s subjective. You never know what they’re coming with.

“When it came down, I wasn’t sure, but I thought we had a real good shot at it.”

As heartbreaking as the decision was in the end, Brown admits that he’d still rather have the scorecards reflect the true nature of the fight, which is exactly what happened at UFC 248.

“I’d rather have it scored properly and it ends close,” Brown said. “It felt good right when the fight ended to have Dana White and Joe Rogan enter the ring and both of them right away said, ‘This is the greatest fight I’ve ever seen,’ or ‘This was the greatest female fight I’ve ever seen.’ They both said something to that effect. Regardless, it was a special night and a special fight. That’s a real positive.

“This was your normal fight, and it was so damn close. It’s literally one punch could have changed the outcome. One right hand that snapped the head back with 20 seconds to go would be winning or losing this fight. The rounds were so close, and all it takes is one punch to change those judges’ minds.”

When the fight ended, Jedrzejczyk had a massive hematoma growing underneath her forehead, but thankfully, she didn’t suffer any serious injuries outside of the cosmetic cuts and bruises that come along with a grueling five-round war.

Nothing has been decided regarding what comes next for Jedrzejczyk, or Zhang for that matter. But considering the reaction the first fight had on Saturday night, Brown definitely isn’t opposed to an immediate rematch.

“I think you have to [do the rematch],” Brown said. “I think that’s all there is. I think the only thing Joanna’s in this sport for is to be champion, and if it’s not for that, it’s not worth it. For her, she’s so disciplined, the weight cut is very difficult, [and] she puts herself through hell. Most athletes wouldn’t get through the weight cut. She really is as mentally tough as anyone I’ve ever seen. It’s really impressive.

“So of course if that was an option, that would be a good one. They both need some time to heal up and rest their bodies, but I don’t think anything else would make any sense.”

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