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Joanna Jedrzejczyk admits new UFC contract could be her last, but ‘physically, mentally I’m just happy’ right now

Joanna Jedrzejczyk has always been realistic about the time she has left in the sport.

Even when she was on top of the world as UFC strawweight champion, the now 34-year-old Polish fighter was honest enough to admit that she wouldn’t be able to compete forever. While she didn’t exactly put a deadline on her career, Jedrzejczyk acknowledged her desire to eventually start a family while as well as the toll fighting takes on the body and mind over the years.

That said, Jedrzejczyk is feeling rejuvenated after signing a new long-term deal with the UFC, but it’s also possible that will be the last contract she’ll ink before her career is over.

“For sure [it could be my final contract],” Jedrzejczyk told MMA Fighting. “It’s a six-fight deal. But this fight is not going to be my last fight or the second or the third — I feel a second wind.

“I’m turning 35 this year and I never felt so good. Physically, mentally, I’m just happy.”

The constant work demanded to either remain champion or pursue the belt as one of the top contenders in her division requires Jedrzejczyk to make a lot of personal and professional sacrifices. Every time she competes, she leaves her home, her family, and a multitude of endorsement and business opportunities in her native Poland so she can train full-time at American Top Team in Florida.

She wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything, because Jedrzejczyk loves the grind. But she’s not oblivious to the delicate balance that needs to be struck between her two worlds.

“All of the opportunities I have outside of the gym and outside of the octagon, the money I can make isn’t easy because I have to work my ass so hard,” Jedrzejczyk said. “But somehow you need this extra motivation to get back to the octagon.

“I can’t just go there and get my face beat up again for little money and no exposure, etc. There has to be something extra beside the love and the desire I have to this sport. I feel like I’m still one of the greatest in the strawweight division and I just want to go there and prove that on June 11.”

Despite her accomplishments — including the longest reign as UFC strawweight champion in history — Jedrzejczyk still struggles to reconcile with her place in the sport because she is often reminded that she hasn’t been the champion in five years.

As she approaches her return in a rematch against Zhang Weili at UFC 275, Jedrzejczyk is content with all that she’s done, but believes she’s far from finished when it comes to her plans to add more accolades to her résumé.

“I used to like to be on the go and not sit with my legacy,” Jedrzejczyk explained. “Now I approach [it like] the love in my life. My sports legacy is so big and some people are still saying I’m not the champion anymore. OK, but I’ve been there and I know my value. This is amazing.

“That’s why I feel pure now going into this camp and this fight. I love Florida, I love American Top Team, I love Dan Lambert and all of these people, and it feels like I don’t want to leave. I want to spend more time training, to be around here, these people and fighting.”

After enduring a 25-minute war with Zhang the last time around, which saw her absorb 170 strikes across five rounds, Jedrzjeczyk is anxious to avoid that kind of damage in the rematch. That punishment on fight night also came after an intense training camp where she had already pushed her body to the limit before she ever set foot in the UFC octagon.

It all adds up, which is why Jedzrejczyk was so adamant about getting paid her worth for this new contract as she continues to recognize the kind of potential risk she takes each and every time she competes.

“The hard work is so many weeks before the fight,” Jedrzejczyk said. “The fight is a pleasure, but it’s the hard part as well. We get a lot of damage and every fight, every camp takes something from us physically, mentally.

“We have to know our value. I set my new goals and to protect myself but I feel like the next fight is going to be even better.”