The unbreakable Joanna Jedrzejczyk: From the outside looking in

By Newsroom on May 3, 2017
  • FOX Sports presents an inside look at Joanna Jedrzejczyk ahead of her fight at UFC 211 in Dallas. In part two of our three-part series, Jedrzejczyk’s coaches and trainers explain why she might just be the greatest women’s fighter we’ve ever seen.

    As Robbie Lawler sat in the back of the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., a few hours away from his main event battle with Matt Brown, the television in the locker room was showing the other fights taking place on the card that night.

    While Lawler was preparing for his bout, one of his coaches happened to be watching the action on the screen and that’s when he noticed something unusual.

    There was a women’s strawweight match taking place, and a Polish newcomer named Joanna Jedrzejczyk caught his eye as she was taking on Julianna Lima in her UFC debut.

    “I was sitting in the locker room watching this women’s fight and I said ‘hey Robbie, come over and watch this girl, she can really [expletive] fight’,” American Top Team head wrestling coach Kami Barzini told FOX Sports “That was the first time I saw her and looked at her.

    “There was something special about her.”

    Then, Jedrzejczyk was just a first-time UFC fighter looking to get a win in her debut. Less than nine months later, she would be standing tall as the women’s strawweight champion of the world.

    Barzini’s introduction to the fierce fighting skills Jedrzejczyk possessed also came more than two years before the first time he’d step onto the mats with her after she left her native Poland to join American Top Team in Florida.

    Jedrzejczyk’s move to the new team actually started months earlier when she first ran into a tag team of nutritionists from a company called Perfecting Athletes.

    Michelle Ingels and Paulina Indara, who co-founded Perfecting Athletes, met Jedrzejczyk at a UFC card in Dallas, but the initial introduction didn’t actually lead to them working together right away.

    Instead, Ingels and Indara got to know Jedrzejczyk while incorporating some of their own unique methods for nutrition and weight cutting as she was struggling at the time to stay on point for competing in the strawweight division.

    “Joanna at the time had a different nutritionist she was working with and we are very different than everybody else. It took Joanna a little bit of time to warm up to us because we are so different. We spoke to her many, many times before she actually said OK this is something I want to do,” Indara said.

    “It wasn’t until the second fight with Claudia [Gadelha] that we had an entire camp with her. There were bits and pieces throughout other fights, but that was the first fight we had her for the entire camp.”

    The work with Perfecting Athletes led to Jedrzejczyk not only trusting them as nutritionists, but also counting both of the founders as friends. It’s part of the reason why Jedrzejczyk turned to them when she was considering a move from her camp in Poland to join a new team in the United States as she looked to build upon her championship credentials.

    As much as Jedrzejczyk loved the coaches and trainers she had at home, she knew deep down inside that she needed to make a change if she was going to continue to grow and evolve alongside the stiff competition she’d be facing inside the Octagon.

    Jedrzejczyk understood that in fighting there are only two directions — either growing or dying — and she wasn’t looking to fade away any time soon.

    Ingels and Indara helped make the introduction between Jedrzejczyk and former WEC champion turned American Top Team coach Mike Brown to see if the two might get along and want to work together.

    “Paulina had contacted me and said Joanna was interested in training here and she would like to work with me and [striking coach] Katel [Kubis]. That’s where it all started,” Brown told FOX Sports. “I chatted with [American Top Team owner] Dan [Lambert] and a lot of the fighters and said let’s bring her in and have her visit and see if she likes it. See if it’s a comfortable fit for her and a comfortable fit for the team.”

    It’s safe to say Jedrzejczyk is a world-class athlete and the same could be said for Brown, based on his own credentials inside the cage as well as the success he’s found since transitioning to coaching full time.

    Still, there’s no guarantee that any coach and fighter combination will work well together until they get on the mats and test out that relationship. It was an audition of sorts for both coach and fighter, but Brown knew right away that he was dealing with a very special athlete when he started working with Jedrzejczyk.

    “It’s not always you get an undefeated world champ drop in your lap. It was great,” Brown said. “It was flattering that she wanted to come here and work with us. A real honor to work with her. I love the sport. I love the game. I love high level MMA and it’s cool to work with the highest level people. We learn from each other. That’s sometimes the best part of this place. It’s so many high level people, high level coaches and fighters that we’re trading knowledge.

    “I think each fighter is a mosaic. A mosaic of information, of people around them, and they take those little ideas and they make their own game.”

    Once Jedrzejczyk had spent some time working with Brown as well as head striking coach Katel Kubis, she decided that American Top Team would become her new home away from home.

    Jedrzejczyk officially relocated to Florida ahead of her last fight with Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 205 in New York. As excited as she was to get a fresh start, Brown knew he had his work cut out for him because he wasn’t getting a full training camp with Jedrzejczyk and all eyes were going to be on her performance after making the decision to leave her previous team to join the new camp in the United States.

    “It was a little tough because it was a major title fight and she’s an undefeated world champion. There’s high expectations so she has to do well or it’s not going to look good,” Brown explained. “It was only seven weeks until the fight. It was a bit tough, a bit rushed, but in the end it’s about trust.

    “If she trusts me and has faith in what we’re doing and it feels like she does. I think she has trust that we have a good plan and know where we’re going and where we’re going to be.”

    The results paid off as Jedrzejczyk cruised to a unanimous decision for her fourth consecutive title defense. She also knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she made the right choice by moving to Florida to begin working with American Top Team.

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