Joanna Jedrzejczyk went into her rematch against Zhang Weili at UFC 275 with every intention of winning and moving onto challenge for the strawweight title but there was a moment during her training camp where retirement crept across her mind.
The actual decision to call it a career didn’t come until after she suffered a knockout loss, but in her first interview since the fight, the former UFC champion admits the possibility existed as she set foot in the cage that night.
” I’m not lying — I was going win,” Jedrzejczyk said to MMA Fighting Wednesday. “I was in my best shape ever but like I said so many weeks before the fight and even a few days before the fight during media that anything can happen and it happened. That was what happened to me.
“At the end of the battle, as during camp, there was a moment when I thought about it. It was a thought that I had, and I realized it when something did happen. But of course, I was ready and motivated to win the fight and continue doing this. It was a good deal, I got good exposure, and it just happened. It just happened. Because of the fight, it was momentum. If I lost on points, I could sit and think about it but I don’t want to waste my health. This is the important thing. This was the key thing. I don’t want to keep on losing myself because of what I am doing.”
After a five-round battle with Zhang, she had been out of the sport for two years. They were awarded the Fight of the Year award in 2020, Jedrzejczyk. She acknowledged that it was important to weigh the benefits of fighting against the potential long-term effects.
While she’s dealt with no serious health issues during her career, the 34-year-old veteran knows that damage from combat sports accumulates over time and the last thing she ever wanted to do was risk permanent harm to her brain or body.
It was difficult for Jedrzejczyk to make the announcement of her retirement. But she is happy with her decision.
“I always wanted to retire on my rules and I don’t want to be this gatekeeper,” Jedrzejczyk explained. “I don’t want to be this legend who is going to fight forever and forever and get beat up. This is the truth. Accepting where I am, regardless of my age. It was my best camp experience. It was the most amazing experience. I was stronger mentally and physically than ever before. It’s crazy because it’s something I love so much and don’t want the sport to end, but I must take care of my health.
” We chose this sport and I choose to fight. Now we must pay the price. You have to think clearly enough to make sure you are well-prepared for what lies ahead. This is the problem. It’s hard. It’s hard.
Jedrzejczyk didn’t go back to the knockout after the fight, but she is fully aware of what happened.
Technically speaking, Jedrzejczyk did everything correct in the sequence leading up to the spinning backfist that ended her night, which strangely enough allowed her to accept the defeat.
” This is why I think fighting is more interesting because I was caught, and the sport is both brutal and beautiful,” Jedrzejczyk stated. It was not there. What do you think is funny? The knockout was like a cartoon knockout when you’re out, but still processing. That was the funny thing, when I was going down, down, down, I was kind of sober but when I saw the highlight, I was not sober. But I wasn’t out. The funny part is that I fell and then I went down. How? How did I get caught?
“This what I mean. I got caught. This punch was not what I expected. Because I had to cut the angle I didn’t see the punch. I changed the position, and she was back with her elbow or spinning elbow.
Jedrzejczyk actually had a multi-fight agreement with UFC 275, She was certain that her expectations of competing at least twice yearly would be met with the UFC.
The knockout served as a sobering reminder just how quickly things can change in this sport and Jedrzejczyk realized that there’s no amount of money or championship belts that are worth exchanging for her longterm health.
” It was amazing what happened,” Jedrzejczyk stated. “To me and to all of us, but like I said, there is the other side of this sport who fighters know only about. The health side. That’s the thing. This is the line I do not want to cross in my life.
” I can earn more. I can get more exposure, but I can’t buy health. I will not be able to buy extra health in the game, extra life. That’s the thing. It’s not easy. If I go, I go 100 percent. This is scary. We have the ability to do all of this .”
Because retirement is so frequent in MMA and a return to action after it, Jedrzejczyk knows there will be many questions as to whether she will ever fight again.
In her heart Jedrzjeczyk wishes nothing more than for someone to take off their gloves and climb in the cage to fight another foe. But as tempting as it might seem, Jedrzjeczyk always made sure that she would never be denied another chance once she had called this a profession.
Jedrzejczyk is able to manage several other businesses in addition to her desire to get into management. Even though she misses fighting, it’s not all that hard for her to be busy.
“It’s [done], at the moment,” Jedrzejczyk stated. “I always promised myself if I leave this sport, I will leave it forever. It’s hard but sometimes I wake up and in the morning I’m like I would love to be back. Why am I doing this? This is the difficult part. That’s it for now. I’m very happy.
“I’m flying to Vegas tomorrow, I hope I will sit and talk to Dana [White] and [American Top Team owner] Dan Lambert as well. I’m really looking forward to seeing all of them and talk to all of them and talk about the future a little bit. I need to stick to my decision because there is so many things which are making me go more into this sport and even keep on fighting but like I said, health is most important. It’s not like I have hidden something. I’m not having any issues.”
Although it has been difficult to see that her fighting days are over, Jedrzejczyk said that there was at least one person who was happy for her to learn that she had stopped being punched.
“My mom, she’s super happy,” Jedrzejczyk said with a smile. “She’s the happiest person in the world right now that her lovely daughter retired from this brutal sport. I’m always going to be a child for mom.”