The champions set to defend their titles in the dueling co-main events at UFC 217 are clearly fired up and champing at the bit to get in the cage and dispel any questions about whether or not their reigns will continue once the promotion clears out of Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4.
Positioned alongside their upcoming opponents on Wednesday's media conference call, bantamweight titleholder Cody Garbrandt and strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk were quick to reframe questions and smack down statements from reporters offering opinions that differed from their respective views on recent and upcoming events.
While Garbrandt mainly stuck to dismissing questions he thought were asked specifically to generate drama and correcting a reporter who asked about his future plans by saying, “If he beats TJ Dillashaw” at UFC 217 – “When I beat TJ,” interrupted the 26-year-old champion – the poor soul who suggested strawweight title challenger Rose Namajunas garnered some early seasoning for what she has in store next weekend in New York City by sharing the Octagon with Karolina Kowalkiewicz wasn’t as fortunate.
“Never say that Karolina Kowalkiewicz has similar style to mine,” interjected Jedrzejczyk, clearly unhappy with the comparison. “She got beat up for five rounds. She had like 10 seconds in five rounds and she didn’t do s*** about it, so please, don’t compare me to some other fighters, okay?”
Those asking the questions weren’t the chief targets of the two UFC champions, who had plenty of ammunition for their upcoming opponents as well.
“He regrets it every day of his life, but his ego won’t let him admit that,” offered Garbrandt, answering a question directed to Dillashaw about his departure from Team Alpha Male, the inciting incident of this fiery feud. “(My coaches) built up TJ to where he’s at now; they taught TJ everything.
“I had Justin Buchholz in the camp this whole camp, this last year, preparing for TJ, getting ready for this guy and Justin showed him how to throw a punch. I’m extremely confident knowing TJ when I get in there; (knowing) his reads and everything.”
Although there are very few things the former teammates turned rivals ever manage to agree on these days, the one area where they could find common ground on Wednesday was the amount of anticipation surrounding this fight and their shared belief that even though they’re not closing out the show at Madison Square Garden, their fight is “the real main event.”
“Our fight sells on all avenues, all angles," said Garbrandt.
“Everyone wants to see this fight – it’s a grudge match; it’s a former interim champion going out there and fighting a world champion and that in itself is the main event. No disrespect to Rose and Joanna – that’s a great fight – but we’re the real main event on November 4th.”
“It all led up to this big fight,” said Dillashaw of the enduring, protracted rivalry between himself and his former team. “Like Cody said, we’re the real main event of this card. Seventy percent of the fans want to see our fight more than any other fight on this card. It all led up to this for a reason.
“It’s definitely not how I foreseen it going down, but it all worked out for the reasons that it did and I’m just going to make the most of it.”
As for Jedrzejczyk, the usually playful Polish standout eschewed her normal conference call approach centered around subtle jabs and coy responses, opting instead to take aim at Namajunas and make her intentions for the future clear crystal clear.
“I want to just tell you that you never, never faced someone like me,” she said after the challenger spoke about her evolution as a fighter. “I’m the champion for a reason and I will prove that on November 4, baby. I’m making history one more time at The Garden.
“This fight, I will tie Ronda Rousey’s record,” Jedrzejczyk said later in the call, referencing the former bantamweight champion’s mark of six consecutive successful title defenses. “This is going to be my ninth fight in the UFC, in the strawweight division. I have a chance to move up, but not now; maybe next year.
“Right now, my focus is the fight with Rose Namajunas and after that, I will sit with Dana (White) and the UFC and we’re going to decide what we will do with my situation.”
To her credit, Namajunas seemed completely unaffected and uninterested in any of the verbal salvoes being fired her way by the champion, opting instead to focus exclusively on what she’s doing to prepare for her second crack at the UFC strawweight title.
“Every day I wake up, I’m a f***ing champion; that’s my mindset,” said Namajunas, who spoke passionately about inspiring those who struggle with mental illness and overcoming her own demons on the way to challenging for championship gold once again.
“I think this world would be a better place if we all just did martial arts; it saved my life, so I’m grateful for it,” she added. “I’m super-grateful for this experience and this opportunity. I’m focused on being the best version of my myself every f***ing day; that’s my goal.”