Michelle Waterson says conquering Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC Tampa is as good as it gets.
“The Karate Hottie” spoke exclusively with Bloody Elbow as part of a promotional campaign for Body Armor (video above). Waterson considers a victory over Jedrzejczyk as significant as winning the UFC strawweight championship.
“If you look at what she has done for the strawweight division, in holding the belt for as long as she did and then taking a risk and going up to 125 to fight for the championship in that division,” Waterson said. “For me, this is a championship fight. I’m training for it as if I was fighting for the belt.”
It is believed Jedrzejczyk will receive a contractually obligated title shot should she win at UFC Tampa. As far as Waterson is considered, this headlining bout is indeed a title eliminator.
“My assumption is the same,” she shared. “I beat Joanna and, in my opinion, the rankings shouldn’t be the way they are. Joanna was the longest-reigning champion in the strawweight division. She should still be ranked number two.”
Waterson has been competing for more than a decade as a professional mixed martial artist. Aside from a 2017 fight with Rose Namajunas, this is arguably the closest she has ever gotten to a UFC title shot.
“The truth is I’m still in my prime. I’m 33-years-old and I feel like I’m all the wiser for it. Having [my daughter] Araya when I was 25 and going through those struggles and adversities to stay relevant in the game. It has only made me stronger and it’s only made me dig deeper. I know deep down in my heart this is what I want to do,” Waterson shared. “I fight because it lights a fire in my heart... When I did first start fighting, it was still at that point very taboo for a woman to be in the Octagon. I think it’s cool that 12-years-later I’m still relevant and making my way to the top.”
Following her unanimous decision win over Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC Philadelphia, Waterson and Kowalkiewicz exchanged gifts. Waterson analyzed the unspoken bond shared by professional fighters.
“There is a very small group of people in this world who know what it is to go through a fight camp and put it all on the line when you step into the Octagon. You really do trade parts of your life with that person inside the cage. When you’re done fighting the person, you should have left it all in the Octagon and have nothing but respect for that person regardless of the outcome,” Waterson explained. “That’s as real and as raw as it gets.”
Waterson fights Jedrzejczyk in the main event of UFC Tampa on Saturday, Oct. 12. The co-main event pits battle-tested veteran Cub Swanson and submission super prospect Kron Gracie. Watch the special “Mom Champ” feature on Waterson at the top of this article.