Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Joanna Jedrzejczyk knows what she wants.
The former UFC strawweight champion is teetering on two years of inactivity since her last fight. But make no mistake, she’s been laser-focused on competing again — as long as the right opponent gets offered.
With reigning strawweight champion Rose Namajunas expected to clash with Carla Esparza later this year, Jedrzejczyk is targeting a rematch with Zhang Weili after their “Fight of the Year” back in 2020. The only problem is she can’t seem to get a firm commitment on when Zhang will actually be ready to fight her.
“I heard Zhang Weili may not be back until late July or August,” Jedrzejczyk revealed on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “What they told me was that she was planning on being back to fighting March-April and then May-June. The last thing I heard was July-August.
“I can wait, and I want to wait, but on the other hand, I don’t want to wait that long.”
Since she engaged in the back-and-forth war with Zhang, Jedrzejczyk has never stopped training or preparing for another fight. But there hasn’t been an opportunity intriguing enough to draw her back to the cage.
Jedrzejczyk had previously asked for fights against Zhang, Namajunas or even Esparza. But now, two of those potential opponents are expected to be booked against each other. When looking down the rankings, the 34-year-old Polish star doesn’t really see many options available.
“It’s complicated because all the girls [ranked] from 1 to 10 are booked,” Jedrzejczyk said. “But like I said, I’m only looking at the big, big, big fights.”
Considering she’s been sidelined for so long, Jedrzejczyk has heard calls that she should just take any fight that’s offered to her, or even pursue a matchup against a potentially less difficult opponent than someone like Zhang.
She pushes back against that idea because at this stage of her career, Jedrzejczyk has no interest in just fighting anybody, especially when she’s been asking for the best possible opponents the UFC could offer.
“So many people are like, ‘Get an easy fight, you’ve been out for a while,” Jedrzejczyk said. “A fight is a fight. A fight is a pleasure. The hard work is so many weeks before. I make the same amount of money. I’m crazy. When I train, when I’m preparing for my fights, I’m crazy. I don’t go easy. So I don’t want to fight easy.
“I don’t want an easy fight. Because I will be training hard like for the championship fight. So I’ve been prepared to fight big names, No. 1 [contender] or the champion.”
Jedrzejczyk is currently in Florida, training alongside her coaches at American Top Team in a trip she planned before the end of 2021. The original idea was to return to the gym to start a training camp and get a fight before the end of March.
As February comes to a close, she still has nothing booked.
“It’s tough,” she said. “Because when I was planning my trip to the states, I planned this already in October, I knew I had like three months left, October, November, December, to work really hard and make sure everything is good back home with the business. I even texted Mick [Maynard]. Matchmakers, they play, so I texted Dana [White], ‘Dana, can I fight at the end of March, I will be ready’ and he was like ‘OK, let’s do it.’
“But then we got the info that all the girls are booked. I was like no, I want to fight at the end of March because when Rose [Namajunas] fights Carla [Esparza], then I will get the championship fight. But then I realized, why are you hurrying? You haven’t fought in two years. It’s not going to make a big difference if I don’t fight at [again] for six months. So I’m here training, waiting.”
In a perfect world, Jedrzejczyk would get the rematch signed against Zhang sooner rather than later, though she’s still not sure what exactly is forcing the former strawweight champion to push back a potential fight until the second half of the year.
“It seems like she’s training,” Jedrzejczyk said. “She’s posting pictures. She’s training, so I would really love to fight her sooner than August.”
For now, Jedrzejczyk is playing the waiting game, but she’s still got time left to get something done before she returns home to Poland in April.
“I’m talking to Dan Lambert, Jennifer Goldstein, who is my manager, CAA management, we’re all trying to stay in touch with the UFC, with Mick and make another decision. Jorge [Masvidal] told me, ‘I was in the spot where you’re at now, be patient.’ Jorge said that, so thanks Jorge, I will be patient.”