Joanna Jedrzejczyk reached the top of the MMA mountain from her homeland of Poland, but made a move to the United States recently to help ensure she stays there. The undefeated strawweight world champion moved to South Florida’s powerhouse American Top Team ahead of her Nov. 12 title-defense at UFC 205 against Karolina Kowalkiewicz and though she may be homesick, Joanna believes the emigration was necessary.
“However, in the USA, MMA is just a lot bigger. In Poland, it’s becoming more popular, but [in the USA] right now the UFC simply enormous. I walk down the street and people recognize me and are surprised to meet me. It’s as if they think the best UFC fighters live on other planets.”
Jedrzejczyk didn’t initially get as friendly a reception from her new teammates, however. The mega-team was already filled with top female fighters, including former Joanna “Champion” foe Valerie Letourneau, when the new member showed up. “To be honest first days were…quite difficult,” Joanna admitted.
“Girls weren’t amazed that I’m here. Valerie, Amanda Nunes, Nina Ansaroff, and Tecia Torres seemed to be saying to themselves ‘What is Jedrzejczyk doing here?’ Valerie I beat, Tecia dropped in rankings, Nina hasn’t fought for a long time.
“What are we even talking about? What kind of threat am I to them? What kind of threat are they to me?”
Jedrzejczyk says that things began to change for the better after just a few days, however, when her ATT cohorts began to see her commitment, to training and to team.
“After a few days, one of them said ‘Joanna is a beast.’ I think they finally saw what it takes to get on top, to get that belt, and defend it,” she continued.
“Jessica Aguilar stuck up for me and said ‘Girls, why are you gossiping about Joanna? Let’s train normally and just learn from the best in the world.’ They thought that I came there only for a while. And I think that I found a place to train at for the rest of my career.”
American Top Team coaching leadership certainly seems thrilled to have the champ on board. “Conan” Silveira, who co-founded ATT and oversees the star-studded stable’s training, told Champions that, despite natural initial tension that exists when fighters in the same division train together, having Joanna on the team is a good thing.
“The reason I say I can’t see a problem with her being on the team is because we are such a big team and we have so many fighters in the same divisions that, mentally, we always are going to go through a chance to have them fight each other. We have the best guys, so that is the price you’re going to pay,” he reasoned.
“It’s like having kids and one goes to college and you tell his brother, ‘no, you can’t go to college, because your brother went to college.’”
“You cannot terminate dreams. Of course, the fact that we have so many good fighters, there is a big chance they will fight each other, not a small chance. And, we are prepared for that. We have separate camps, with separate coaches. Professionally, we know how to do it.”
The Brazilian Silveira knows what it is like to leave one’s home country behind to chase dreams as Jedrzejczyk says she’s done by moving from Poland to the U.S. The coach is confident that Joanna made the right move.
“When you have a place that has over 20 coaches, and tons of training partners – not just training partners, but the best training partners you can find – When you have an environment that breathes, sleeps, eats, MMA, there’s no way that you’re not going to get better. You don’t have that option,” he explained.
“’JJ’, she realized that she needs to improve herself. She needed to get better training, better training partners. I’m not saying that what she had before wasn’t good – of course it was because she has the belt. But the question is, ‘are you satisfied to get there?’ Because when you get there, to the top, staying there is a lot harder. How are you going to stay as the champion? Anyone can get there and lose the next time they fight.
“I do think it was the best move for her to come be with us. I’m not saying we are the best, but we work every day, and the results show it.”
Silveira believes that, come fight night, when Jedrzejczyk battle countrywoman Kowalkiewicz in Madison Square Garden at UFC 205 all the tumult will pay off. As great as she was when she walked into ATT, “Conan” anticipates an even more dangerous, well-rounded monster of a champion.
“I think she’s going to be a different fighter, in every area, the next time you see her fighting, Nov. 12,” he concluded.
“Anywhere she goes in the fight, she’s going to be fine.”