Combat Sports

The Legacy of a Strawweight Queen: Joanna Jędrzejczyk

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At UFC 275, Joanna Jędrzejczyk retired following her bout against Zhang Weili. Jędrzejczyk lost by KO in round two. With the strawweight queen’s retirement, what better time than now to recap the legendary and pioneering career of Joanna Jędrzejczyk in women’s combat sports.

Joanna Jędrzejczyk’s Early Beginnings

Hailing from Olsztyn, Poland-Jędrzejczyk discovered Muay Thai as a teenager. Jędrzejczyk competed in kickboxing and Muay Thai for over 10 years, winning multiple medals and titles. Jędrzejczyk’s amateur (record 37-3) accomplishments in Muay Thai include six IFMA (International Federation of Muay Thai Associations) medals, five gold, and one silver, and also winning four championships.

At the pro level, ‘Joanna Violence’ accumulated a record of 27-3, winning five world titles in multiple organizations like WKN (World Kickboxing Network) and the WMC (World Muay Thai Council). The Polish Kickboxer even competed against the current UFC women’s Flyweight champ and one of the greatest women’s Muay Thai fighters in the world, Valentina Shevchenko three times. Jędrzejczyk lost all three of the bouts by decision but facing Shevchenko three times speaks to the skill level that Jędrzejczyk held.

The Realm of MMA

Jędrzejczyk made her MMA pro debut in May of 2012 SFT-MMA Fight Night Diva SPA against Sylwia Juskiewicz, winning the contest by decision. ‘JJ’ won her next five contests and at a record of 6-0 in MMA, she made her official UFC debut at UFC on Fox: Lawler vs. Brown in July of 2014, facing and defeating Juliana Lima by decision.

Next for the rising star-Jędrzejczyk was Cláudia Gadelha at UFC on Fox 13 in December of 2014, ‘JJ’ won the fight by split decision in a fight that is argued and controversial by fans and media alike due to the decision.

With the controversial fight in the rearview, Jędrzejczyk was on to bigger and better things as she was next in line for a title shot against the inaugural champion of the strawweight division-Carla Esparza. The title fight was held at UFC 185 in March of 2015. The challenger-Jędrzejczyk dominated Esparza, earning a Performance of the Night bonus and winning the title by TKO in the second round. The Polish UFC Queen became the first champion from Poland and the first female European champion for the UFC.

Pioneer Champion

After winning the strawweight title in only her third UFC contest-‘Joanna Champion’ quickly defended her title five times consecutively, defeating Jessica Penne, Valerie Letourneau, Claudia Gadelha, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, and Jessica Andrade. In the bout against Andrade, Jędrzejczyk put on a masterclass, landing the most significant strikes in UFC championship history while also having the most significant strike differential for a UFC championship bout. Jędrzejczyk still holds the record for most consecutive title defenses for the division.

For Jędrzejczyk’s sixth title defense, she lost her first pro MMA bout and title to Rose Namajunas by KO in the first round at UFC 217 in November of 2017. There was an immediate rematch of the contest in which Namajunas successfully defended her title by decision.

Jędrzejczyk followed up the loss by defeating Tecia Torres by decision and afterward moved up to the flyweight division to face a former rival in Shevchenko. The bout between the two was for the vacant women’s flyweight championship, Shevchenko defeated Jędrzejczyk by decision.

After another title defeat, the once queen-Jędrzejczyk returned to strawweight against Michelle Waterson, winning the bout by decision. Next for the “Polish Queen” was another title fight against then champ-Zhang Weili at UFC 248 in March of 2020. Although she lost the bout by split decision, Jędrzejczyk gained so much respect from the media and fans as did Weili for putting on a war in what is heavily considered the greatest fight in women’s MMA history.

After a long layoff from March 2020 to June 2022, Jędrzejczyk returned to the octagon in a rematch against Weili, losing by a spinning backfist-KO as mentioned at the top of the article.

Speaking of her retirement in the post-fight interview Jędrzejczyk said, “Guys, it’s been 20 years, I’m turning 35 this year, I want to be a mom, a businesswoman. I’ve been training two decades, more than half of my life. I appreciate you all. I love you guys.” You can check out the inspiring and emotional interview below.

Jędrzejczyk finished her MMA career going 16-5 UFC, 6-0 MMA with five finishes-four wins by KO/TKO, and one win by submission.

Key UFC Accolades

  • Five Title Defenses
  • Tied Most Title Fights in UFC Women’s Divisions at Ten
  • First UFC Champion From Poland
  • Three Fight of the Night Performances
  • Tied Most Wins in Strawweight Division at Ten
  • Most Consecutive Wins in UFC Strawweight History at Eight
  • Most Wins in UFC Strawweight Title Fights at Six
  • 2020 Fight of the Year vs. Zhang Weili

Featured image credit to Embed from Getty Images

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