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SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - JUNE 12: Joanna Jedrzejczyk of Poland announces her retirement after her TKO loss to Zhang Weili of China in a flyweight fight during the UFC 275 event at Singapore Indoor Stadium on June 12, 2022 in Singapore. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Former Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk Announces Her Retirement

Joanna Jedrzejczyk Calls It A Career After Fighting At UFC 275: Teixeira vs Prochazka

For so many years, people who had trouble pronouncing Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s last name simply referred to her as “Joanna Champion.” 

And though she hasn’t had the strawweight belt in her possession for over four years, she’s still the champ in the eyes of her family, friends, colleagues and fans, a fact made crystal clear on Saturday night, when she announced her retirement Saturday night after her UFC 275 loss to Zhang Weili.

UFC 275 Rewind: Results | Official Scorecards

As the celebration of the former strawweight champion’s ten-year pro MMA career commenced on social media, it was a reminder that not all champions wear belts, and that how a fighter performs on fight night – win or lose – and how they make you feel is often more important than accolades or trophies.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk Discusses Retirement Announcement | UFC 275
Joanna Jedrzejczyk Discusses Retirement Announcement | UFC 275

That should be good news for the 34-year-old native of Olsztyn, Poland, who never fought for such accolades. She just loved fighting and wanted to be the best in the world at it, and for a long time, she was the best, as she held the 115-pound championship for over two years, successfully defending the crown she took from Carla Esparza in 2015 five times. Since she lost the belt to Rose Namajunas in November 2017, the title has gone on to change hands four times, with no champion successfully defending the belt more than once. That shows how dominant Jedrzejczyk’s reign was.

But back to the original point of how Jedrzejczyk fought for more than money and titles. Before her November 2016 win over Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the first UFC event at Madison Square Garden, she and her challenger visited the Polish Consulate in NYC. As we spoke, Jedrzejczyk told me about her early days in Muay Thai.

“I was fighting for minus two thousand dollars,” she said. “For example, I had to fly to Thailand, for the Muay Thai world championships to represent my country.”

Joanna Jędrzejczyk Octagon Interview | UFC 275
Joanna Jędrzejczyk Octagon Interview | UFC 275

That wasn’t the product of a language barrier. Jedrzejczyk actually paid to be able to travel and fight. Her subsequent ascension to MMA stardom could have been the spark for her to change who she was, to suddenly go from humble to obnoxious in the blink of an eye.

But she never did. Jedrzejczyk always had time for her fans, for the media, and for those asking for interviews during those intense final days of training camp, when the last thing a fighter wants to do is talk. But she always answered the emails, did the interviews, and if such chats led to a conversation about something other than the upcoming fight, she was genuinely interested in what you had to say.

View Jedrzejczyk's Athlete Profile

In other words, she was all-class, always. Of course, if you were the one who was tasked with trying to take her belt or punch her in the face, the psychological warfare was always on 11. That led some to turn on Jedrzejczyk, but as the years went on, there was no bitterness between her and some of her bitterest rivals. Jedrzejczyk trained with Kowalkiewicz in Florida for their recent bouts. There was talk of Jedrzejczyk and Namajunas training together, as well, and despite engaging in one of the fiercest and punishing fights in UFC history with Zhang, it was all respect between the two before and after the rematch.

Valentina Shevchenko Discusses Joanna Jedrzejczyk Retiring | UFC 275
Valentina Shevchenko Discusses Joanna Jedrzejczyk Retiring | UFC 275

“I hate myself in the Octagon because I’m a different person,” she told me in 2015 before her UFC 193 win over Valerie Letourneau. “When I watch the video or pictures from the fight, I don’t like this Joanna. But this is my job, this is how we do it, and I think it’s a good part because I’m not afraid. I love to compete and it’s all about the sport. I don’t want to hurt my opponents. And I hate trash talk, but when they come too close, I must switch. That’s all.”

That switch was what she needed to become one of the most dominant champions in UFC history. The numbers speak for themselves, but it was how she won that made her a star. The punishing stoppages of Esparza and Jessica Penne, the gritty late-fight surge that beat Claudia Gadelha in their rematch, and a disciplined shutout of Jessica Andrade.

Even when she lost her rematch with Namajunas and the two bouts with Zhang, she did so battling to the end, and having one of the greatest fights in history the first time around with Zhang is something to be proud of, as well.

So while this is an ending, Joanna Jedrzejczyk shouldn’t leave the sport as an active competitor with her head down or any regrets. She did what she set out to do all those years ago. 

To be the best. To be remembered. To be Joanna Champion.

UFC 275: Teixeira vs Procházka took place on Saturday, June 11, 2022, live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!