The back stories on the two women’s championship bouts set to take place next week during International Fight Week couldn’t be more different.
On Friday night, Joanna Jedrzejczyk defends her strawweight title against No. 1 contender Claudia Gadelha in a rematch of their December 2014 encounter, which the champion won by split decision. In addition to having a history together in the UFC Octagon, the tandem also spent six weeks together in Las Vegas earlier this year as opposing coaches on season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter.
They have spent a great deal of time around each other and always knew this second meeting would come together at some point, with both eagerly anticipating the opportunity to run it back and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are the superior competitor.
“I’m very motivated, not only because I’m fighting for the title, but because I’m fighting her,” Gadelha said of Jedrzejczyk during Wednesday’s media conference call. “I wanted to have the opportunity to fight her again because I’ve watched that first fight too many times and I don’t see how they give the fight for her.
“It’s the only loss that I have on my record right now and I want to make sure that I’m going to have revenge that day.”
“I want to show to all of you that I am the greatest fighter,” Jedrzejczyk said when asked why things with Gadelha always seem to become heated. “She knows she lost the first fight and she knows she is going to lose our second fight.”
While both competitors made it clear that they have respect for each other’s skills as a fighter and accomplishments in the cage, it was as clear on the call, as it was every week on the long-running reality television show, that these two do not like each other and that their tension isn’t likely to dissipate, even after this bout.
In fact, both made it clear that should the UFC permanently introduce the flyweight division on the women’s side, they would each contemplate making the move to the 125-pound weight class, meaning this feud could cross divisions and continue there as well.
Conversely, the UFC 200 women’s bantamweight title clash between Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes doesn’t come with any previous beef or carry any of the tension that exists between the strawweight combatants.
Instead, it is a fight that came together in the wake of both women earning victories at UFC 196 in March and the big name options many expected to see lined up opposite the new champion being unavailable when the organization looked to get Tate back in the cage this summer.
“I took this fight because the UFC called me up and asked me if I would fight,” Tate said when asked why a bout with Nunes was the right follow-up to her championship win over Holly Holm. “There was no mention of any other names. Ronda (Rousey) was clearly not able to fight and I don’t know why they didn’t have me fight Holly, but I wasn’t asked for any other fight but Amanda.
“When they call me and ask me to fight, I don’t pick and choose, I just say, ‘Yes,’ so that’s why I took this fight – it’s the one that was offered to me.”
This is the opportunity of a lifetime for Nunes, a dangerous finisher riding a three-fight winning streak and sporting a 5-1 record inside the Octagon. Few expected her to get this opportunity and after watching the championship clash between Tate and Holm up close in March, she has no intention of replicating what she feels were mistakes that cost Holm the title.
“I knew that fight was going to happen like that,” Nunes said of the UFC 196 co-main event, which followed her unanimous decision victory over Valentina Shevchenko. “I was talking with my friends that night (and said), ‘If Miesha takes Holly down, I know she is going to submit her’ and it happened. Holly was scared of the ground game the whole time in the fight and Miesha got her.
“I’m going to be ready for whatever Miesha brings,” the Brazilian challenger added. “Whether she (starts) slow, fast – it doesn’t matter; I’ll be ready for her. I’m going to wait and see how she shows up that day and start from there. Whatever she’s starting, I’m going to make my game and win the fight.”
While the two bouts came together in very different ways and hit the cage propelled by very different narratives, one thing is for sure: both should be exceptional.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk defends the UFC women’s strawweight title against No. 1 contender Claudia Gadelha Friday night in the main event of the Ultimate Fighter: Team Joanna vs. Team Claudia Finale at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and live on FS1.
Miesha Tate puts her UFC women’s bantamweight belt on the line against challenger Amanda Nunes as part of the pay-per-view main card at UFC 200, which takes place on Saturday, July 9 at the T-Mobile Arena.
E. Spencer Kyte writes the MMA blog Keyboard Kimura for The Province newspaper in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Follow him on Twitter @spencerkyte