Joanna Jedrzejczyk didn’t have the best opening minute – or first two rounds for that matter – at The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale Friday night.
But over the final 15 minutes, her title fight with Claudia Gadelha was owned by Jedrzejczyk, as she claimed a decision and retained the strawweight title.
“I knew that would be a tough fight,” she said. “Like I said after the first fight, she is No. 1, I am the champion.”
The two shared several heated exchanges in press conferences and while coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 23. However, after sharing the Octagon for 25 minutes, Jedrzejczyk had nothing but more praise for Gadelha.
“Claudia, I am so sorry for what happened between me and you,” she said. “I have been preparing for this fight for three months. I put in a lot of blood and tears.”
Jedrzejczyk landed over 170 strikes in the final three rounds, overcoming several takeedowns by the challenger. In fact, Gadelha dropped her in the opening moments with a left hand on the nose.
Gadelha came over to Jedrzejczyk and the two embraced, with Gadelha adding “(the belt) is very important, but more important is to be humble and do it for the fans. I respect everyone here, I respect Joanna, but more important (than the belt) is here (pointing to her heart) and respecting people.”
Jedrzejczyk, the first Polish-born UFC champion, has now handed Gadelha her only two defeats. She also scored a split decision in their first meeting two years ago.
Following the win, Jedrzejczyk stated she would like to compete in November when the UFC invades New York and Madison Square Garden.
“It was my dream to fight in MGM Grand,” she said. “Now, I want to fight in New York, at Madison Square Garden.”