MF meets UFC champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk

(Image credit: Unknown)

Poland’s Joanna Jędrzejczyk is the current UFC strawweight champion, making her just the third European ever to hold a UFC title. With skills in Muay Thai, wrestling, MMA and jiu jitsu she’s ready to take on anyone who comes her way.

What first drew you to Muay Thai?

When I was 16 I was a little bit bigger than I am now. I wanted to lose weight and some of my friends asked me to join them at a class. I trained for six months and then I went to my first competition and won the gold medal. After that I got addicted and trained everyday and then competed every two weeks. I also did K-1, Thai boxing, and some amateur boxing. I started fighting pro after two years of amateur fights.

How did you get into grappling and wrestling from there?

I was training with Ernesto Hoost in Thailand and Holland for two years, and then went back to Olsztyn in Poland where I went to the Arrachion Gym. At the time I was just doing Muay Thai but the gym is completely MMA. My trainers wanted me to start training with wrestling, grappling and jiu jitsu since I had experience in the ring, but it was very difficult from the beginning.

Did you have any amateur MMA fights? How did they go?

Yes, after three months of training I had two competitions and I won both of them and beat all the best Polish fighters – but it was difficult. Learning all the different styles together was much harder than if I learned them separately. I’m an ambitious person and I like it when things are going right so the beginning was not good.

Right after you went pro you were matched up against the experienced Russian Julia Berezikova. Was that intimidating?

Yes I was the underdog and everyone on Sherdog was saying, ‘Joanna is going to lose the fight’. I didn’t want to take the fight but after a while it didn’t matter to me if I lost the fight because I wanted the experience. But then I won the fight and all the Russian commentators were saying, ‘Fuck, where is she from?!’

Do you think that you’re changing the idea that European fighters have a problem with wrestling?

Yes, people are going to change their minds. I started my sparring camp and I’m always trying to take my partners down.

With your level of striking and all your different skills, do you think that people tend to underestimate you?

For me, I know when to use certain skills. For example, everyone talks about my jiu jitsu saying that I don’t know how to do things, but I do. In MMA everyone is fighting in position, so I’m going to fight where I feel good. I feel good when I’m striking but since I have a lot of cross training with wrestling, jiu jitsu and grappling, I know when to use certain skills.

What was behind you giving Carla Esparza a cookie at your last fight?

That was an idea I got the day before the ring, I just wanted to do something crazy, I’m a very funny and easy-going person outside the Octagon compared with when I’m inside, then I can be aggressive. But I don’t trash talk people either way.

MMA media in America say that you’re a hometown favourite for your next fight in Germany even though you’re Polish. How do you feel about that?

Poland is where I’ve chosen to live and I like having my easy life there so I can’t complain. I do have a good feeling when I’m in America though and being a champion in America feels different than being one when I’m in Europe.

Do you have a prediction about your fight with Jessica Penne on 20th June?

I have a lot of respect for her, but I don’t know. I’m not going to say that I’m going to try and knock her out because you never know what’s going to happen. I like to fight and my condition is good so all I know is that I’ll be ready for five rounds.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk faces Jessica Penne at UFC: Berlin on 20th June. Follow @UFC_UK on Twitter for more information.

Photography: Josh Hedges/Zuffa

Former intern

Khaliha Hawkins worked as an intern for Men’s Fitness UK in the summer of 2015, while studying for a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University. Khaliha went on to work at Glamour magazine in New York.