Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s UFC career began in 2014. By that time she had already been a world champion in Muay Thai and put together a 6-0 MMA record outside the UFC. Her MMA career ended on Saturday night. During the nearly 8 years she spent under the UFC banner, Jedrzejczyk accomplished a great deal, including winning and defending the strawweight title five times.
One could go on and on about the numbers Jedrzejczyk put up, her place in the UFC record book and the memorable fights she had. I’ll leave it to others to discuss her accomplishments and conquests, which anyone with a search engine and the ability to play an archived video can find. Me? I want to talk about something else when it comes to Jedrzejczyk, and that is something a little more abstract — how she raised the level of of an entire weight division in the UFC.
I don’t think it’s out of line to ponder if there would be a UFC strawweight division in 2022 without Jedrzejczyk. But Jedrzejczyk happened and I’m fairly confident in the assertion that the entire women’s 115-pound weight division benefited from her presence.
Jedrzejczyk was the type of fighter who elevated those around her. She brutally took the title from the inaugural champion, Carla Esparza and with that victory served notice to the rest of the division. Jedrzejczyk statement in that fight was simple and savage — If you wanted to challenge for that title, you had best not mind the sight of your own blood or be averse to absorbing the type of volume striking that few other fighters in UFC history could produce. For reference, only more tenured vets in Max Holloway (2,848) and Frankie Edgar (1,799) have landed more significant strikes than Jedrzejczyk in UFC history.
Jedrzejczyk’s title reign lasted a little over two years. That was enough time for future strawweight champions Rose Namajunas and Zhang Weili to study Jedrzejczyk’s game and calculate effective ways to deal with her dominance.
Some will point to Jedrzejczyk’s final few years in the UFC and call those times a failure, but that would be an oversimplification — and incorrect. Yes, Jedrzejczyk’s record was 2-5 between November 2017 and June 2022, but she only lost to Namajunas, Zhang and Valentina Shevchenko (at flyweight) — which is to say — to champions .
The real impact Jedrzejczyk had on the UFC is not something that can be measured in wins and losses, but in how she affected the other fighters in her weight division. She elevated the entire weight class and left it better than it was when how she found it — and as far as legacies go — that’s the ideal.