With one bout left on her current UFC contract, Joanna Jedrzejczyk is approaching her future with loyalty to the promotion but also seeking a deal that makes it worth her while to continue fighting.
The former strawweight champion is currently preparing for a return to the United States where she will spend the better part of two months training alongside her coaches and teammates at American Top Team in Florida in anticipation of booking her next fight.
While Jedrzejczyk maintains a good working relationship with UFC president Dana White as well as matchmaker Mick Maynard, she’s clear in her resolve about what it will take to keep her competing beyond the last fight on her deal.
“It’s stupid what I will say but it’s not about the money but it’s all about the money,” Jedrzejczyk told MMA Fighting from Poland. “Because I don’t have to put my life and my health on the line for the money that I’m getting from the fights. Of course, I love it but I’m just getting older. I can’t keep doing this for the idea of fighting. There must be good money behind. I made good money in the UFC, but I feel like after my last fight, it doesn’t matter. Of course I love it, the fans went crazy. I lost this fight but I feel like I won much more.
“I can make this money easily outside the octagon without putting my life and health on the line. You know what I’m talking about. It’s not about the money but it’s all about the money.”
In her last appearance in the UFC, Jedrzejczyk engaged in an epic, five-round war with former strawweight champion Zhang Weili that was later recognized almost universally as the best fight of the year.
More than a year later, the 33-year-old Polish fighter is completely healthy and more than ready to return to action but she also knows those kinds of battles take something away from an athlete that’s nearly impossible to get back.
That’s part of the reason why she’s honest enough with herself about what it will take to get her back into the cage beyond the last fight on her current contract.
“It’s my last fight on the contract. Contract is contract and I always back it up,” Jedrzejczyk said. “Dana and the UFC have been great to me but I don’t get pay-per-view points since I lost the belt but you can see, you can tell people go crazy when they hear about me fighting and they see me fighting. I sit and talk business at the table. I don’t want to discuss this here but we will make it happen.
“There must be big money behind it. Because I lost lots of health in this fight, in this camp, especially before the fight with Weili Zhang. Because it doesn’t matter if I win or if I lose, I always put on a hell of a performance. For so many weeks. I’m losing my life, my health, physically and mentally, it isn’t easy. I can’t go easy. I can … I just can’t. I always go 100 percent. But that’s why I always put on good fights.”
Revealing that she only has one fight left on her deal isn’t necessarily a negotiating tactic because Jedrzejczyk hasn’t even contemplated free agency.
Instead, she just wants to come to an agreement with the UFC that will put her into a position where fighting still makes the most financial sense given the sacrifices she makes with her body whenever she competes.
“I’m the UFC soldier,” Jedrzejczyk said. “Let’s see. They’ve always been good to me. I’m not thinking about leaving them. But it’s my last fight on the contract. Let’s see. Of course I’ve been winning, losing but I leave my health in the octagon. In the gym. I put on fights people want to see. People want to see me fighting much longer. I don’t know. I’ve never thought about me fighting outside [the UFC]. I can do so many things outside the octagon but I just love it. I want to keep on doing this but I can do so many things to make money, bigger money.
“We put our lives on the line. I realized this after my last fight and I’ve been doing this for 18 years. If I fight the big fights, I need to get paid much more. That’s the thing.”
As far as her next fight goes, Jedrzjeczyk says late summer possibly around September would make sense for her return to action but there’s only a couple of potential matchups that interest her.
In a perfect world, she’d face Rose Namajunas for a third time with the strawweight title going up for grabs but Jedrzejczyk understands that may not happen.
“She’s the champion and she deserves all the best,” Jedrzejczyk said about Namajunas. “It’s her time again, she became the champ for the second time. Let’s see when she will be willing to fight. Let’s see what’s going to happen.
If Namajunas isn’t available or isn’t interested in a trilogy, Jedrzejczyk only sees one more name on the list that would truly interest her right now.
“Only if it’s Weili Zhang,” Jedrzejczyk said. “I’m not interested in fighting no reason fights. Every fight is good and I know they want to fight me because I can open the door to the big world. But I’m only interested in fighting the best, the top two. The champion and No. 1, that’s it.
“I’ve been training all the time during COVID because I spent most of the time in Europe, in Poland. I was at American Top Team for six weeks in November, in two weeks I will be back for almost two months. I’m really looking forward to signing the fight agreement.”