Jessica Andrade and her team quickly left Brazil for Las Vegas to save an April 18 fight against Rose Namajunas. Through no fault of her own, she lost the date. But that wasn’t the end of her journey.
After the first iteration of UFC 249 was canceled, Andrade was stuck in the U.S. for 11 days before she was able to return to Niteroi, Brazil. When she and her team returned to Brazil, they had to stay in quarantine for another two weeks. The former UFC champion had to stay with her teammates Karol Rosa and Jessica Delboni, who’d travelled with her to Las Vegas, because she lives with her wife and their parents in Niteroi.
“I stayed 14 days ... and then came back home when we realized everything was OK and we had no symptoms,” Andrade told MMA Fighting.
Despite the delays, Andrade made use of her time. Stateside, she used the opportunity to set up a partnership with conditioning coach Rafael Alejarra, and she planned an eventual move to to Las Vegas when the coronavirus pandemic is under control.
The UFC ended up putting a trio of events in Jacksonville, Fla., just weeks after Andrade left the country. Although she was offered a chance to stay in the country and be part of one, she said she was “terrified” that one of the events would be canceled last-minute, leaving her unable to return to Brazil due to possible travel restrictions.
Andrade, who said she wasn’t tested for coronavirus in Las Vegas like those in Jacksonville because the UFC’s safety protocols had yet to be implemented, doesn’t regret returning home instead of being part of one of those events.
“We had to come back,” Andrade said. “We have bills to pay, things to do, and we couldn’t stay there much longer. We came back and decided to wait. Thank God the events are happening, and Dana White has been saying that the ‘Fight Island’ will be ready in six weeks or so, so maybe I’ll be able to travel and fight by the end of June.”
Unlike other athletes scheduled to compete at UFC London a few weeks prior to UFC 249’s original date, Andrade wasn’t paid her full purse. She was, however, compensated for going through adversities to be ready for a fist fight amid a global pandemic.
“The UFC did help me with a great amount,” she said. “It wasn’t the full purse, but it was a great amount. The good thing about the UFC is that they see your effort of going there, doing everything you have to do, cut weight, travel during a pandemic, and they went there and paid me. It wasn’t the full purse, but it’s a big help.”
Still eager to enter the octagon and trade hands with an opponent, Andrade hopes to be part of one of the UFC’s first events planned for the yet-unknown island, a series of cards projected so international athletes can fight without a visa.
It’s unlikely that Namajunas will be an option. The ex-champ withdrew from the April 18 card after two members of her family died due to the COVID-19 virus. Andrade is willing to fight whomever is available from strawweight all the way up to bantamweight.
“Dana White said we can fight four times this year if we want, so I’ll accept to fight whoever comes,” Andrade said. “If I have to fight at 125, I’ll do it. No problem. I love fighting and I can’t wait to fight. I keep training at home, doing. My physical preparation, and I’ll be ready when time comes. I’ll be OK.
“It can be at 125, 135, or 115. That’s what I told Tiago (Okamura, her manager): ‘Tiago, make the offer.’ You have to volunteer. If it happens, cool. If it doesn’t, what can I do? But I’m available for whatever comes.”