It’s still not easy for Joanna Jedrzejczyk to talk about retirement.
After making the announcement following a loss to Zhang Weili at UFC 275, the former strawweight champion is resolute in her decision to hang up her gloves, even if it still chokes her up a little bit.
“It’s very emotional for me,” Jedrzejczyk told MMA Fighting. “It’s hard. Even sometimes, I feel like I can’t speak properly.”
Despite the difficulties that come with calling it a career, Jedrzejczyk vowed on the day she finally decided to retire from active competition that there would be no going back.
For Jedrzejczyk, the statement about being done with the sport before the sport is done with you is absolutely accurate. That played at least some part in the timing of her retirement, even if she’s still physically capable of competing again.
“I always promised myself if I leave this sport, I will leave it forever,” Jedrzejczyk said. “It’s hard, but sometimes I wake up and in the morning I’m like, ‘I would love to be back. Why am I doing this?’ That’s the hard part. For now, I’m done. I’m very happy.
“I need to stick to my decision because there is so many things which are making me go more into this sport and even keep on fighting, but like I said, health is most important. I’m not having any issues like I’m hiding something. I’m not having any issues.”
Beyond her long-term health — a factor she cited when she retired — the longest reigning 115-pound champion in UFC history was also ready for a break from the rigors that come along with a fighting lifestyle.
There’s no better example than Jedrzejczyk describing how much time she’s spent in a pair of homes that she owns.
“The last six months I spent maybe 8 or 10 nights in my house,” Jedrzejczyk revealed. “I moved to this house two years ago, and this year I spent 10 nights, so I’m happy to be here. Falling asleep and waking up in my bed, and I’m trying to be smart with my money, invest my money in real estate.
“But yeah, there are places I’ve never seen. This nice apartment in the Baltic Sea area, I’ve slept two nights only. That’s the craziest thing. I really want to sit and be with myself and really physically approach how big my legacy is.”
Because she was so successful during her career in the UFC, Jedrzejczyk has been afforded the financial freedom to pick and choose what she wants to do now that she’s no longer planning to compete. She’s already started her own supplement line; it isn’t some company with her face plastered across the front of the packaging, but rather products she has a personal hand in crafting and creating.
Jedrzejcyzk has also expressed interest in getting more involved in the business side of MMA and has plans to begin managing fighters.
“I’m very grateful and thankful for the people I’ve met in my personal life and fighting life and business life, I took so many lessons,” she explained. “I had lots of bad and good experiences. But I want to be one of these managers who is going to take care of an athlete, the fighter. Because they should be always up front.
“The managers should think about the fighters as a first priority, but many times it’s [just] a business. This is what I hate about it. So definitely I will try to do other studies, some seminars, get some lessons, get some advice and I would love to be a manager in the future.”
In addition to starting her own management team, Jedrzejczyk also plans to keep her competitive edge by enjoying another massive adrenaline rush that doesn’t involve her taking punches. An active racing enthusiast, she’ll now have more time to devote to that sport, and she plans on getting behind the wheel a lot more often.
“Actually after I get back from Vegas, I have a meeting with my racing team,” Jedrzejczyk said. “I will try to do some training in July and maybe I will do another race very soon, next month or in a few months. I’m really thinking very seriously about going into motorsport. I just can’t wait.
“I’m very happy my sponsors, they don’t have to leave me. I will stick to [MMA] forever, but I will give them another possibility to go together as a family, to go big. I’m very happy about that and to build my brand and to extend my brand. I can’t wait to drive these fast cars and go nuts like I used to in the cage.”
Jedrzejczyk also plans to continue as an ambassador for the UFC whenever she’s invited to an event, much like the appearance she made at International Fight Week in Las Vegas. Chances are she’ll be back there again in the near future, because UFC President Dana White has already promised she’ll eventually be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. It’s an achievement she never imagined when she first signed with the UFC eight years ago, but she’ll proudly accept that invitation.
“I will be crying because I will realize that I’m old!” Jedrzejczyk said with a laugh. “I remember when I made my UFC debut and I was like, ‘Wow [these guys are legends].’ Like Chuck Liddell, there was one time they compared me to Chuck Liddell and he was ‘The Iceman’ and I was ‘The Icewoman.’ I was meeting all these legends and I was like, ‘I want to be like them one day.’ It’s happening.
“It’s so nice. I can’t believe it. I always say this, maybe I’m a grown woman now, but I always feel like this J.J. from the hood who just started. That’s the thing. It means to world to me if I get into the UFC Hall of Fame. It’s great. Because I know there’s so many athletes, so many fighters in the UFC, but in the Hall of Fame, is very short. It would be an honor.”