On Saturday March 14th, Joanna Jedrzejczyk will take on current UFC women’s strawweight world champion, Carla Esparza, in a bid to secure the world title. UFC commentator, John Gooden, travelled to Joanna’s home city of Olsztyn, Poland to find out more about this fascinating world class female fighting.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk is on the verge of creating history. On March 14th in Dallas, Texas, she will challenge current UFC women’s strawweight world champion, Carla Esparza, for the illustrious UFC championship belt. If successful, Joanna’s name will be etched into mixed martial arts history, as she will become the first European female UFC champion. She would also become the first UFC champion ever to hail from Poland. So, commit the name to memory now, as Joanna Jedrzejczyk will most certainly appear in future UFC trivia.
I first met Joanna during a visit to Olsztyn, Poland alongside a UFC Countdown production crew. We were awaiting Joanna’s arrival at a local radio station, where Joanna had been invited to speak on air to discuss her UFC career and upcoming title challenge.
Within the first few minutes of Joanna's arrival, three things became very clear: she is hugely personable, has energy by the bucket-load...and is a self confessed kicks-a-holic. (My initial interpretation of this phrase couldn’t have been more wrong). A 6-time Muay Thai world champion, I took this choice of words to be a clever pseudonym to describe her own fighting style. Alas, in amongst the handshakes and hellos on this first encounter, Joanna spotted a retro shoe worn by one of the crew members and quickly admitted her weakness for ‘kicks’. She went on to describe her sizeable collection of trainers – something which the strawweight is evidently very proud of, due in no small part to its value, as ‘kicks’ don’t come cheap in Poland. I wondered whether, more recently, those purchases had come a little easier by way of UFC victories.
Standing at just 5ft 6in, Joanna is currently 8-0 as a professional mixed martial artist. Her remarkable degree of skill is outweighed only by the level of passion she invokes with every challenge she encounters. I was keen to learn what drove her to combat sports and, indeed, what has kept her there.
Clues as to the roots of Joanna's drive and motivation lie within the walls of her gym, Arrachion MMA. Historically, the building was designed and conditioned for combat. A former stable block for the military horses, the spirit of battle and discipline still exist within the space. Strapped to the wall is the spelling of Arrachion, arguably the most famous Olympic Pankration champion from 568 BC. This, I realise, is the perfect setting to nurture talent in combat sport.
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