Claudia Gadelha’s eighth round of fighting with Joanna Jedrzejczyk was over. The first three went to Jedrzejczyk and the next five were about to follow suit. There would be no strawweight championship belt going back to Brazil with Gadelha, and it left her at a crossroads in her career.
“I felt like I did everything I could to win the fight. I gave all my heart, all my soul, and I really gave everything I had inside the Octagon and outside the Octagon, but I didn’t win,” she said of last July’s rematch with Jedrzejczyk, which she lost via unanimous decision.
Nearly a year later, as Gadelha approaches her UFC 212 co-main event with Karolina Kowalkiewicz, everything has changed.
“You can’t expect a different result if you keep doing the same thing,” she said. “And I did the same thing for over 10 years, so now I want to be a different fighter and I want to keep growing and keep getting better.”
It’s always risky for a fighter to change training teams midstream, but even more so when a fighter is at the top of their division and in the prime of their career. That was certainly the case with “Claudinha,” who made her name in the MMA world under the auspices of the Nova Uniao team in Rio de Janeiro that she had been with since she was 18.
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“I became a very good fighter there,” Gadelha said. “I love the people there, my friends, my teammates, everybody that helped me along the way. But after my second fight with Joanna, I felt like I needed to get better. I needed to change a couple things in my style and in my career.”
Eventually, she found her way to America, namely Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the camp of Chris Luttrell. The two clicked immediately, and then all Gadelha wanted was a fight to shake the memory of a second loss to Jedrzejczyk from her mind.
“I just wanted to fight,” she said. “I wanted to get back there and fight again, but nobody would take the fight.”
Cortney Casey would, but Gadelha wasn’t too thrilled with being a No. 1 contender fighting the No. 14-ranked American. Gadelha was given some advice.
“I was told, ‘Step in there and make her look like the number 14,’” she said. “That’s why I took the fight.”
Gadelha shut Casey out over three rounds, moving to 14-2 as a pro. Now it’s the No. 2-ranked Kowalkiewicz and a chance to make her case for a third fight with Jedrzejczyk. Gadelha knows that it’s a longshot, but she refuses to stress over what happens after June 3.
“When you can’t control something, just let it go,” the 28-year-old said. “Don’t stress about it. Me and Joanna is something I can’t control. We already fought twice. The first fight, I don’t even think I lost. It’s in the papers, the loss is there, so it is what it is. The second time, I really lost the fight. I got exhausted, and I still think I’m better than her technically, but my cardio was terrible in that fight.”
Now training in the high altitude of Albuquerque, Gadelha is putting those cardio woes in the past, even though she still needs to be held back from spending every waking hour in the gym. She’s content with the way her life and training is heading, though, and that’s making her a very dangerous fighter.
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“I did my last camp out here and I was really happy with the results, so I came back here to train, and I’m really happy with what’s going on with my life,” she said. “I think when you get to the highest level, you have to have your own coaches and a lot of attention and at the highest level, the little details make the whole difference. I take this as a real serious job and I want to be the boss at my job. I don’t want anybody to take me out of my focus. This is my priority now.”
So what’s next for the boss?
“My goal since I started doing this is to be the best and I want to be the UFC champion.”