Camp changes in MMA aren’t unusual. You could probably make a much shorter list of the fighters who’ve stuck by one gym for their whole career than of the fighters who have, at least once, jumped to a new training facility. In an individual sport it’s not unusual that “team” alliances can be shaky. Still, it was a little surprising to hear that current strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk was upping stakes from her home gym in Poland and moving over to American Top Team.
It’s not so much the destination that’s a surprise, as ATT has been a welcoming environment for a whole slew of international fighters looking for a stateside base camp. But for a dominant champion in the midst of a strong title reign, from the outside it has the flavor of fixing what isn’t broken.
"This may sound selfish, but I had to think of myself," Jedrzejczyk said. "I care about eating well, getting enough sleeping, and being ready to workout, because this will all matter on the day of the fight. I believe now I've found the right place, and I have arranged it all myself. When preparing for a fight, I must be selfish. I have to know that I will be able to cope physically and mentally.
"I feel like I'm on a mission now. I miss my loved ones from Olsztyn in Poland, but I have to do what's best for me to make sure I win."
She went on to explain that while she had no particular problems with her former gym, the culture around MMA in the US is just much bigger - and perhaps better able to provide the kind of championship regimen Jedrzejczyk is looking for.
Of course, a camp as large and well known as ATT has its own problems. For one, it hosts a few other UFC strawweights. And according to the champ, they didn’t give her the warmest welcome:
"To be honest first days were... quite difficult," Jedrzejczyk said. "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?
"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. 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."
Jedrzejczyk is currently training to take on her next title contender, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, at UFC 205 in New York City, New York. Her bout will be one of three title fights on the card at Madison Square Garden. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more news and updates as the night approaches.