It’s been two years since Joanna Jedrzejczyk last competed in the UFC, but just because she hasn’t fought doesn’t mean she isn’t busier than ever these days.
With a burgeoning business empire being built at home in Poland, the former UFC strawweight champion still trains every day, but is also juggling endorsement deals, television appearances, and other opportunities that have been afforded to her since becoming one of the most recognizable names across combat sports.
Make no mistake, Jedrzejczyk is still just as passionate about fighting as she was after first signing with the UFC back in 2014, but now she’s really started to understand her worth inside and outside the cage.
“I’m always very busy,” Jedrzejczyk said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “Like I said before, it was time for myself. Time for me as a human being, time as a businesswoman and an athlete. Like I said, I was training really hard. I was super busy, crazy busy. Traveling every single day, working every single day, but training is always my priority.
“I wanted to make sure that everything is going the right direction. Because when my fighting career blew up, I was focusing only on my fighting career, and it was good, but I like to do so many things. I’m personal with so many hobbies, passions, businesses. I wanted to make sure everything was going in the right direction. Now I have a clear head, a strong heart, and I can be focusing only on training.”
Currently in Florida where she’s training alongside her coaches at American Top Team, Jedrzejczyk is still anxiously awaiting an official offer from the UFC for her next fight, but she’s also been very vocal about her current contract situation with the promotion as she approaches the end of her deal.
Jedrzejczyk has always maintained a strong working relationship with the UFC, but that doesn’t diminish her desire to get paid what she’s worth, especially now that she’s found so much success outside the promotion.
“I feel like I’m making more money outside the octagon,” Jedrzejczyk said. “It’s kind of set for me. Because my big hobby, big passion, became my job with fighting. It’s all happening, we’re talking because of my legacy and how dedicated I was and I am, because of MMA and my job.
“It’s kind of sad but I get as much as I can from here and now because I’ve been doing this for 18 years, you all know this, but my life got changed when I got into the UFC and became the champion and got more opportunity. I started making money, and I’m trying to get as much as I can, but I’m doing things I really love to do. Yeah, I accomplished a lot in this sport and it’s not about the money, but I feel like I’m in the sport where I can ask for more money because I deserve this. I deserve this and I know my worth.”
Because she has so many endeavors away from fighting, Jedrzejczyk is constantly bombarded with questions about why she would even bother returning to the UFC now that she’s set up a career for herself that doesn’t involve getting punched in the face for a living.
While a day will come when she actually retires, the 34-year-old veteran absolutely wants to compete again, but she’s also smart enough to address the inadequacies in her paycheck when compared to her drawing power and fighting ability.
“It’s hard because so many people are like, ‘Maybe you should stop fighting, you shouldn’t even be doing this,’” Jedrzejczyk said. “You do this, you do that, you have this business, the other business,’ but you can’t stop the love. Love is real and it’s the only real thing in this world.
“I love this sport. I feel like I want to do it. I feel like I can do it. So that’s the thing. It’s hard because everyday I get messages, ‘Are you retired?’ or, ‘She is retired,’ or other things. It’s hard.”
Despite no longer holding the 115-pound title, Jedrzejczyk knows she still has a massive following in the sport, and that drives up her value to the UFC.
As important as championships are in the UFC, she also understands that star power means more in MMA than perhaps any other sport.
“I feel like we hear about the money,” Jedrzejczyk said. “Like [Kamaru] Usman got more money. [Israel] Adesanya got more money. Of course, I’m not the champ anymore, but I’ve been in this business for such a long time and I had such a big impact in this sport, women’s side and in general. I feel like I can get this as well, because I’m bringing people to the arenas. I always put on a hell of a performance.
“Look at Jorge [Masvidal], look at Dustin Poirier. Of course [Conor] McGregor is something else, but I feel like I can be the female version of these guys and actually my teammates.”
Beyond recognizing her drawing power for the UFC, Jedrzejczyk also knows that she can’t fight forever, and that also plays a part in what she hopes to receive in future contracts.
There was no better evidence to that fact that her last fight against Zhang Weili, in which Jedrzejczyk absorbed 165 significant strikes over five rounds. While she suffered no major injuries, Jedrzejczyk can’t ignore what that kind of damage can do to her body long-term, and it forces her to ask hard questions about her future in the sport.
“You saw me after my last fight,” Jedrzejczyk said. “I want to be a mother in the future. I want to be a businesswoman. I want to enjoy my life. So I don’t want to get beat up or get health issues for nothing, but if I get the paycheck and do it.
“It’s hard for me. I ask myself everyday? Should I be fighting or not? I pray everyday like, ‘God, help me, give me the answer.’ Like what happened to [Dhiego] Lima the last time, he said ‘I’m not fighting anymore, God gave me an answer.’ It’s a little bit different with me, but it’s like, should I or not? It’s hard to stop doing the things we love doing. We will see. I hate to say this but now it’s all about the money. Somehow it’s all about the money. I feel like I can get more because there is much more money in this sport than when I was the champion even.”
Regardless of her feelings on money or negotiations with the UFC on a new contract, Jedrzejczyk is confident that she’ll remain with the promotion, but it just has to make sense.
“I know it’s a business,” Jedrzejczyk said. “There is some value to bring to this business, but I would love to stay in the UFC until end of my fighting career. I see the bright side and I believe I will re-sign the contract.”