Jędrzejczyk hasn’t been in action since her Fight of the Year clash with Zhang Weili last March. After going 14-0, winning the 115-pound UFC title, and defending the gold five times, the Polish star went 2-3 over the next two years. Despite that, a five-round victory over Michelle Waterson in 2019, and her most recent appearance, showed that Jędrzejczyk hasn’t lost a step.
In the final event before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down live audience, Jędrzejczyk and then-champion Weili treated fans to a war. The pair went back-and-forth for five rounds in what is widely regarded as the greatest women’s MMA bout of all time, and one of the best fights in the sport’s history, period. Jędrzejczyk ultimately fell on the wrong side of a split decision, but her stock and legend status certainly didn’t fall.
Given the damage she sustained against “Magnum,” in particular a nasty hematoma, it’s no surprise the former champ has taken time away from the cage. That, coupled with the absence of crowds, has caused a now-19-month period of inactivity. If Jędrzejczyk is to be believed, her absence will come to an end in 2022.
During a recent interview with SCMP MMA, Jędrzejczyk provided an update on her impending comeback. Having expressed her desire to secure a bigger piece of the UFC’s lucrative cake, the 34-year-old says she’s yet to start any negotiations with the promotion. However, she’s still itching to get back in action next year.
“I haven’t started negotiations (with the UFC) yet, so I have to see and talk to my manager… The most important thing is that I really want to fight, and so many people, in Poland, worldwide, or from abroad, they ask me like, ‘You not scared that it took you so long (to return)?’ No, because I know my value. I know how hard to train. I never lost the fighter. I feel like the flame is just bigger.”
Despite many, including American Top Team owner Dan Lambert, believing she’d only return to fight for championships, Jędrzejczyk suggested that if former rival and current champ Namajunas isn’t ready to defend her belt in March or April, she plans on taking another opponent.
“Physically and mentally, I feel ready to return to the Octagon… [Is your preference to fight the champion?] Yes and not. I know how to do business as well, and I understand the UFC. I know Dana promised me (another title shot) after my last fight, but I understand that Rose’s position, she’s the champ, she can decide who she wants to fight next and when.
“I feel like I want to be back to the Octagon in March/April. So, if the champ is not going to be ready, if she’s not willing to fight me, I will take another fight because I just want to be back, you know. I’m not gonna sit here and wait another 6, 8, 12 months… I want to fight. I want to be back in the UFC Octagon.”
Jędrzejczyk Would Bet “$3 Million” On Her Returning In 2022
Despite venturing into businesses and other activities, including motor racing and tennis, Jędrzejczyk insisted that her main focus is still on the sport of mixed martial arts, something nothing can distract her from.
SCMP MMA’s Tom Taylor even put her confidence in a return to the Octagon to the test. When asked how much she’d bet on her making a comeback in 2022, Jędrzejczyk said she’d be willing to put a hefty sum on the line.
“Yeah, I’d put $3 million. For sure. I feel like I’d put everything (on it). That’s why I’m doing so many things. I just wanna go there and just stay in America. But I can’t wait. It’s been a while… I have to dedicate my life to MMA, and I want to do it. That’s the most important thing.”
Despite her preference still being a trilogy fight with Namajunas for the gold, Jędrzejczyk is seemingly open to a rematch with Weili, or even a second clash with the division’s inaugural champion Carla Esparza.
While her opponent is yet to be determined, it seems likely we’ll see one of the greatest female martial artists the UFC has ever seen back in action sooner rather than later.
Who would you like to see Joanna Jędrzejczyk face if she returns to the Octagon in 2022?