NEW YORK – Joanna Jedrzejczyk spoke to a small crowd of fans gathered at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday to watch her work out prior to her strawweight title defense on Saturday at UFC 217 against Rose Namajunas.
After predicting victory and shouting that she “was born ready,” Jedrzejczyk dropped the mic onto the basketball court and walked away. Given how her career has gone, and how the fans have so clearly taken to her, there was precious little more she needed to say.
If she defeats Namajunas on Saturday, it will be her sixth consecutive successful title defense and her ninth consecutive victory in the UFC.
Those six consecutive successful defenses will tie her with Ronda Rousey and at least put her in consideration for the title of greatest women’s fighter in UFC history and, potentially, in MMA history.
“Absolutely,” UFC president Dana White said.
That’s rarefied air for any fighter, particularly one who entered the UFC in 2014 well under the radar. Perhaps that wasn’t fair, as Jedrzejczyk was 27-3 as a kickboxer, 37-3 as an amateur Muay Thai fighter and 6-0 as an MMA fighter outside the UFC.
She was 70-6 before she ever got to the UFC, so perhaps in retrospect, her arrival should have been more than it was. Jedrzejczyk made her UFC debut on July 26, 2014, defeating Juliana Lima at a time when Rousey Mania was running wild.
Rousey made her UFC debut 15 months earlier, submitting Liz Carmouche in the first round, beginning nearly three years of unmatched dominance.
Between her UFC debut in Anaheim, California, on Feb. 23, 2013, and her final victory, which came by first-round knockout over Bethe Correia on Aug. 1, 2015, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Rousey won seven consecutive fights, all by finish and six in the first round.
She was so dominant that during that streak her total cage time in that span was just 17 minutes, 57 seconds. Her last three wins took a combined 46 seconds.
Given that, it seemed implausible for anyone to surpass her in the near term as the greatest women’s fighter in UFC history.
But Rousey suffered two brutal knockouts, at the hands of Holly Holm at UFC 193 and Amanda Nunes at UFC 207, and suddenly, the door had to be opened to consider others.
The only other fighter in the conversation at this stage would be featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino, though Nunes could force her way in if she keeps winning.
But Jedrzejczyk, while facing a difficult and vastly improved challenger in Namajunas, has been two steps ahead of her opposition, much like pound-for-pound king Demetrious Johnson in the men’s flyweight division.
The opportunity for Jedrzejczyk is there if she gets past Namajunas on Saturday to move up and win another title. “The Ultimate Fighter” that is currently on television is focused on creating a women’s flyweight champion.
Jedrzejczyk is eager to move up, though she wouldn’t talk about it much when pressed.
“Let me focus on this fight and let’s talk after,” Jedrzejczyk said when asked about a potential move to flyweight. “I will tell you after the fight at the press conference. I hope you are going to be there and for sure, I will answer this question. But right now, I’m focused on Rose. She’s my next opponent. She’s my next big challenge. She’s a very dangerous fighter and you must expect everything and anything from your opponent. So, I’m ready for five rounds.
“We all know that one submission, one punch, can finish the fight. I’m prepared for that and let’s talk about me moving up after this fight. But definitely, I want to tie Ronda Rousey’s record and break Ronda Rousey’s record. So, definitely, I will still be defending my title in the strawweight division but of course, there is an idea about me moving up.”
She’s 14-0 in MMA and said her goal, more than anything else, is to leave the sport with that zero in the loss column intact.
It’s a tall order no matter how great a fighter she is. Few saw Rousey’s loss to Holm coming, and even those who did never expected it to be as one-sided of a beatdown as it turned out to be.
If Jedrzejczyk can make it through the rest of her career undefeated, we can anoint her the GOAT and move on.