Despite Carla Esparza’s title challenge earning performance at UFC Vegas 27 earlier this month, former champion and opponent, Joanna Jedrzejczyk has doubts regarding the Californian’s status as the rightful title challenger — maintaining herself or Zhang Weili should be next for current strawweight titleholder, Rose Namajunas.
Expected to make her Octagon return later this year following the selected return of fans to a live open gate, Jedrzejczyk has yet to feature since UFC 248 last March, where she suffered a close split decision loss to then-champion, Weili in the consensus Fight of the Year — as well as arguably the best strawweight fight in the promotion’s history.
Turning her hand at broadcasting in her native Poland in the time since her unsuccessful title siege, Jedrzejczyk has been continuously linked with a return to the Octagon in the near future, after she firmly put to bed suggestions that she was considering retirement.
Noting her plans to return to the sport in tandem with a live open gate, Jedrzejczyk recently travelled to the United States, and is currently in Las Vegas, Nevada, ahead of a return to her long-time home base, American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida.
Speaking with The Schmo recently, Jedrzejczyk explained that she had begun her training routine once again, and is hungry to score an Octagon return in the not too distant future.
“I’ve been training really hard for not weeks but months, even twice a day,” Jedrzejczyk explained. “I know people don’t see lots of training posts on my social media but I do training every single day and I manage my daily schedule, daily routine for training.“
“So training is always at the highest priority in my life because I’m an athlete first,” Jedrzejczyk said. “But I’m also a celebrity — I don’t like this word, but I do lots of TV, lots of media, commercials in Poland. And I became a businesswoman, I am about to open two more companies in September. But of course, I feel this fire and I’m very motivated to fight again soon.“
Turning in a masterful grappling display earlier this month at the UFC Apex facility, streaking strawweight contender, Esparza staked her claim for a title rematch against Namajunas next via a brutal second round bloodying of the promotional-perfect, Yan Xiaonan. However, according to Jedrzejczyk, only Weili or herself should be on the horizon for Namajunas.
“This is what she (Carla Esparza) thinks (she deserves a title shot), she has a few wins, straight — a winning streak,” Jedrzejczyk said. “But, I think the next challenger should be ‘JJ’ or Weili Zhang. This is what I agreed to, only.“
The closing statement suggests it’s title shot or bust for Jedrzeczyk who appears keen to avenge a pair of title defeats to Trevor Wittman product, Namajunas.
Whilst to the consensus, Esparza is the rightful next contender to the 115lbs throne, especially given the fact she was crowned the inaugural champion via a rear-naked choke over Namajunas, the promotion hasn’t shied away from juggling the option of linking Namajunas with Weili again following their UFC 261 clash just last month.
Still seated as the #2 ranked contender at strawweight, one spot above prior foe, Esparza — Jedrzejczyk appears to be banking on her previous success as the 115lbs pacesetter, as well as her close showdown with Weili, as her path to a title shot upon her Octagon return.
Reigning as the undisputed strawweight best from 2015 to 2017 — Jedrzejczyk managed to score the championship with a second round bludgeoning of Esparza, before lodging successful title knockbacks against Jessica Penne, Valerie Letourneau, Claudia Gadelha, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, and former champion, Jessica Andrade.