The last time fans saw Jessica Andrade inside the Octagon was April 2022, when she delivered one of her biggest highlights of her career – submitting No. 3 strawweight Amanda Lemos in the first round via standing arm triangle.
It was her second consecutive first-round finish since her title fight loss to flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko, making her a strong contender to be next in line for a title shot against either the 115-pound or 125-pound champion.
The win came at a cost, though. Leaving the Octagon that night, Andrade suffered a herniated disk, forcing her to take considerable time off to undergo physical therapy. Leading into her scheduled bout with French phenom Manon Fiorot at UFC Paris back in September, the pain was too much to bear, and Andrade withdrew from the bout to pursue more care.
“I stayed at home resting, doing physical therapy, and before the surgery, I spent three months on the shelf, not training, not being able to move properly, just doing the PT to see if it would help,” Andrade said. “I had no choice other than to go on with the surgery. I had it and now I’m super recovered, going back to training, strong and ready for this fight that is coming up.”
Throughout her career, Andrade suffered lower body pain during training camps but endured as long as she could to continue to fight as frequently as she desired. With her recent surgery, not only has her back pain significantly reduced, but so has the on and off, nagging injuries that persisted over years.
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“With the professionals here [at the UFC Performance Institute], with Heather (Linden), with the nutritionists, my life really turned from water to wine,” Andrade said. “Today I train, and I feel stronger, I have more energy, I have more in the gas tank. People say that I already had a good gas tank before, so now it’s even better. I believe that I am really back now. A new Jessica, ready for whatever comes. And [I’m] really, really strong. Really strong. Even stronger. I’m going to kick people out of the Octagon.”
Andrade’s new and improved power will be on full display when she returns to the flyweight division at UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill against former title challenger Lauren Murphy. Falling short against Shevchenko, Murphy bounced back with a unanimous decision victory over former champion Miesha Tate in July.
Bonus Résumé | Jessica Andrade
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Bonus Résumé | Jessica Andrade
“This fight with Lauren Murphy is exciting because she is not an easy opponent and the UFC would never give me an easy opponent, but she is coming from a title fight, so she has fought for five rounds and knows how hard that is,” Andrade said. “Even though we’re fighting for three rounds, she has this experience in the Octagon and that makes a difference. So, I’m very excited and can’t wait to see what she has to show, if she’s going to try to strike with me, if she’s going to use her jiu-jitsu and her grappling. I know I have weapons for all the areas of the fight, and I become more well-rounded everyday as a UFC fighter, as an MMA athlete.
“I hope I knock her out or submit her early. I don't want to take too long on this fight because I want to be in one piece to go to my mom’s house and see my family. This was a decision made by my Master and my manager, Ali, since I’m coming from an injury it was the most likely fight to happen. And if I didn’t accept this fight, I wouldn’t have the chance to fight so early. Also, because most of the girls at strawweight already have fights booked and the flyweights don’t want to fight me. So, this opportunity came around and we grabbed it with all we could.”
Born in Paraná, Brazil, Andrade will be fighting in her home country at UFC 283, when the UFC returns to a full capacity Jeunesse Arena on January 21, an arena Andrade knows all too well.
Flashback to May 11, 2019, Andrade had her second crack at UFC strawweight gold in UFC 237’s headliner against then-champion Rose Namajunas. In front of her hometown fans, Andrade slammed her way to a knockout victory over “Thug Rose,” adding to one of her many highlights on a historic night in Rio de Janeiro.
During her time recovering from surgery, these moments replayed in her mind over and over again. Now given the opportunity to perform in the same arena where she became the UFC strawweight champion, Andrade hopes to replicate that dominance at flyweight against Murphy.
“When I was a kid, I used to dream about this. I wanted to be a soccer player and I would imagine the crowd chanting, ‘that’s the champion,’ and on that night, to hear everybody yelling that made me think of my childhood, of when I was a kid and dreamed of being champion,” Andrade said. “To bring this win to my people was so good. This is something that will be in my head forever.
“The feeling of getting back in the Octagon and fighting at home is so good, especially coming from an injury, an injury I thought would stop me from doing what I like to do, which is going for takedowns, taking people off the ground. So having this energy at home, fighting again at a UFC in Rio, it’s going to be wonderful.”
If Andrade can get past Murphy at UFC 283, her motives are very clear: get back to the title and dethrone whoever’s in her way. While she hasn’t decided on a permanent home at either strawweight or flyweight, a move back down to 115 pounds is inevitable.
“A win against Lauren Murphy can put me really close, if not immediately, really close to a title fight, both in strawweight and flyweight,” Andrade said. “But what I really aim for in my career is to go back to 115 pounds and have the chance to do a rematch against (Zhang) Weili. In China, I had no opportunity to show what I can do inside the Octagon. It was a very quick fight, so I really want that opportunity.”