Joanna Jedrzejczyk didn’t walk into UFC 275 with a plan to retire, but after suffering a second-round knockout loss to Zhang Weili, her mind was made up.
After 21 fights in MMA and a combat sports career that stretched back nearly 20 years with kickboxing and Muay Thai bouts, the 35-year-old former UFC champion felt it was time to hang up her gloves and call it a career.
” “It was only the moment,” Jedrzejczyk stated about her decision to step down during UFC 275’s post-fight press conference. It was something I knew I would do, but it wasn’t until a few years ago. I have been involved in this industry for over years. Lots of investment from myself. I am ready to live fully.
” I was too busy to think about it. I have a lot of legacy. I always dedicate myself. I give as much as I can and I get as much as I can the same way but now it’s time to fully really enjoy it. Spend time with my family. I started traveling when I was 17, I used to live in Thailand, in Holland and in the [United] States, it’s been more than six years from the time I moved to the States, I’ve been on the road. I’ve been doing this most of my life so it’s time to really, fully enjoy.”
Jedrzejczyk paid homage to Zhang on a job well done as she recounted the moments just after the fight-ending punch.
“I feel good,” Jedrzejczyk said. The bells still ring in my head but they are not too bad. A few bruises. A big bruise on my head from being hit at the back. I just saw getting closer to the mat, and I felt bells ringing in my head. It was a strange time.
“I knew I was KOd, and I was like it’s all over, don’t hurry because you’re going to fall. It’s good. It was good. I felt sober in the middle of the road, just before hitting the octagon. I was able to catch her good .”
While her fight career will end on a loss, Jedrzejczyk still maintains the record as the longest reigning strawweight champion in UFC history and she built a legacy in the sport that goes far beyond any title.
Even with all the wins on her record, Jedrzejczyk actually pointed to another achievement in the sport.
” I remember feeling broke at that point and felt like I didn’t have any options. I decided to give up,” Jedrzejczyk said. Jedrzejczyk explained that there was no money or options. There were no choices. The only limit is our imagination. I made a decision that I was going to become a superstar and I did that and I’m proud of myself. Talking about the dreams I had from my past makes me very proud. Don’t lose heart, boys.
“Sometimes I was in the super crazy and difficult position, and I thought that there was not going to be any help but there was. We must take the first step. There are always options. This is the most important. It is important to continue moving. You can slow down, but you can’t stop. We need to keep on moving in our lives and fully enjoy the rollercoaster.”
The emotion of the moment eventually overwhelmed Jedrzejczyk as she addressed her future now that fighting is done.
While she may be able to relax and take a break from training camps, Jedrzjeczyk said she will still be involved in the sport. She plans to continue her role as a fixture at the UFC.
“I have been telling people that I am the UFC soldier,” Jedrzejczyk cried as she tried to hold back her tears. “I just got a message from Hunter [Campbell], I love you guys. I would love to travel. International Fight Week, London and Paris are my plans.
“In the future, I want to be the best manager I can be, learning from the best my manager Jennifer Goldstein, CAA combat sports, Dan Lambert, the owner of [American Top Team]. I want to be around. I just want to be around.”
It was nearly impossible for Jedrzejczyk to truly encapsulate her entire career just moments after retiring but she’s confident in the legacy she leaves behind not to mention the long list of accolades on her resume.
She’s also ready for a nice, long break after putting her mind, body and soul through the ringer to remain one of the top fighters in the sport for so many years.
” I want to always be known as the best and that is what Jedrzejczyk stated. I’m the girl in the hood. J.J. from the hood. It was a huge accomplishment. I have to sit and think about what I have achieved.
” I bought an apartment in a great location two years ago. You don’t know how often I went there. None. Like maybe I slept there two nights. It’s now my turn to enjoy the experience fully. I’ll go there, spend some time, sit on it and enjoy it.”