Joanna Jedrzejczyk is feeling fine just days removed from a five-round war with Zhang Weili in the UFC 248 co-main event.
The strawweights engaged in a brutal and bloody battle for 25 minutes that ended with Zhang retaining her title via split decision while Jedrzejczyk left the Octagon with a massive hematoma on her forehead after exchanging nearly 400 strikes with the 115-pound champion.
Despite the sheer volume of punches, kicks, elbows and knees traded during the fight, Jedrzejczyk actually walked away fairly unscathed outside of a cosmetic surgery that she will undergo in her home country of Poland next week.
“I feel great,” Jedrzejczyk said when speaking to MMA Fighting in her first interview since UFC 248 ended. “I’m trying to relax as much as I can with my family. Last night was the first time I slept more than three hours. Those first few nights I only slept like three hours. It’s usually like this after the fight. My friends were here, my family, we were hanging out. On Friday, I fly back home. I cannot wait to get back home and relax with my family and friends. I feel great.
“The swelling is going down. The UFC took really good care of me. I met with the doctor on Monday. Everything is fine. I have a small surgery on Monday in my ear in my Poland with one of the best plastic surgeons in the business. I have a cauliflower [ear] so they drained it at the E.R. right after the fight. It looks very bad. So that’s it. I’m waiting on the swelling to go down. It will probably take a few more days but it’s getting better everyday. After that, I will do some exams again just to make sure everything is OK but so far, so good.”
Looking back at the fight, Jedrzejczyk knew that she would have her hands full with Zhang and that’s exactly the way the action played out over five rounds.
The exchanges saw both fighters land their fair share of combinations with Jedrzejczyk and Zhang also showcasing incredible durability. When it was over, two judges gave the fight to Zhang with the third official scoring it for Jedrzejczyk.
As much as she wanted to leave with the UFC strawweight title around her waist, Jedrzejczyk knew it was going to be a tough call for the judges after such an intense battle between two elite mixed martial artists.
“I know that the fight was very close,” Jedrzejczyk said. “The fight was close every round. It was back and forth. I ask myself, I questioned myself during the fight ‘Joanna, can you do better?’ and of course I’m going to watch this fight and see things I could do better. I’m like this after every training. If the plan was good, I’m always like no, it can be better. You can fix this and that and make this a different way. Probably after this fight there’s going to be so many ideas that I can get for the next fight, for the next camp. You can always do something better.
“I questioned myself in the fight. Standing in front of Weili Zhang, you’re doing everything you can and you did everything you could, physical, mental, the weight cut, I did my best. That’s why I did so good on Saturday. It was not luck. I worked so hard.”
When the decision was read, Jedrzejczyk couldn’t help but feel disappointed but she knew the judges had a tough call to make after a remarkably competitive fight.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Jedrzejczyk said about the decision. “After what happened in the second fight with Rose [Namajunas], it was really close. That night I did my best and I’m proud of myself. I don’t care what people are saying. I did my best.
“Before when I was the champ and I was so dominant, I did the same thing in my head. Go there and do your best. It doesn’t matter if you win or if you lose, go there and do your best. I always want to put on entertaining fights for my fans.”
Ahead of UFC 248, Jedrzejczyk and Zhang exchanged some tense staredowns and even a few words as the rivalry between them flourished in the days leading up to the event.
Considering how the fight played out it’s nearly impossible that they wouldn’t at least share some kind of respect for each other regardless of the result, which is exactly why Jedrzejcyzk was happy to pay homage to Zhang and her performance.
“We got into a war. We went five rounds, a real championship war,” Jedrzejczyk said. “She didn’t surprise me with anything. Her cardio was good. She’s a very tough bitch and I mean bitch in a good way. She’s a very tough opponent. She’s a tough character. She doesn’t give up. We Polish people are the same. We go to the end. She can handle punches. She can get punched and me the same way.
“I said that before the fight at the weigh-ins that it was going to be the best fight in the UFC strawweight history and it happened. Not only that, it was one of the best fights in the UFC history.”
While the goal going into UFC 248 was reclaiming the strawweight title she previously defended five times, Jedrzejczyk has learned to recalibrate her goals and aspirations as she continues to strive for greatness.
There’s no doubt that the chase for gold will continue but the 32-year-old Polish strawweight knows with or without a belt, she’s still a champion.
“Honestly, it was my big dream to become the UFC strawweight champion but the way I carry myself since I had the belt, and how hard I was working before that fight, that’s why I showed up that good for the fight,” Jedrzejczyk explained. “I don’t need the belt to be the champ.
“Of course, I set my ambitions, I want to have this belt physically but I’m not crazy about it. I was there. It’s all about the legacy. That’s the thing. I was there. People can doubt me. They can say whatever they want but they do not know what they are talking about. That’s the point.”
Because the fight with Zhang was such an epic encounter with UFC president Dana White declaring it worthy of entering the Hall of Fame already, it’s entirely possible a rematch happens at some point down the road.
For her part, Jedrzejczyk is definitely open to the idea but her focus right now is resting, recovering and spending time with friends and family back at home in Poland.
“Sure why not?” Jedrzejczyk responded when asked about a rematch. “If she’s going to be the champ, why not? I want to face the best. I might consider doing this again.
“Right now, I just want to go home and relax. I don’t want to think about my next move, my next fight. I don’t want to think about the future yet. I need the time off to be myself but I’m fine. I’m strong. I keep my head up. Of course the expectations are very high but like I said, it’s not just about having the belt physically. I’m very proud of myself. My job is to be one of the best athletes and I am one of the best in the world.”