UFC 275 saw the end of an era in the strawweight division. After a stellar eight-year UFC run that included five title defenses, Joanna Jedrzejczyk decided to call it a career after a second-round knockout loss to Zhang Weili.
In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, Jedrzejczyk, who turns 35 in August, spoke about her retirement for the first time. While she did admit that she is “still digesting” her decision, she knows she made the right move.
“I always wanted to retire on my rules and I don’t want to be this gatekeeper,” she explained. “I don’t want to be this legend who is going to fight forever and forever and get beat up. That’s the thing. I accept where I am at, what my age is. The craziest thing about it is it was the best camp of my life.
“I was in the best shape ever. Stronger physically, mentally than before. That’s the craziest thing because I’m still having so much love for this sport and I don’t want to leave but somehow I have to take care of myself.
“We pick this sport, I chose to be a fighter and we have to pay the price,” she continued. “Sometimes you have to be smart enough to say enough to protect yourself for the future. That’s the thing. It’s hard. I’m still digesting my decision, and it isn’t easy, but somehow I’m happy.”
A lot of fighters in the sport make the mistake of staying too long, either because they feel incomplete without fighting or because of the money. But for Jedrzejczyk, long-term health tops all of that.
“It was surprising what happened. To me and to all of us, but like I said, there is the other side of this sport who fighters know only about. It’s the health side. That’s the thing. I don’t want to cross this line in my life and have these concussions or these health issues,” she said.
“I can make more money. I can get more exposure, but I can’t buy health. I will not be able to buy extra health in the game, extra life. That’s the thing. I can’t go easy. If I go, I go 100 percent. It’s just scary as hell. We can get all this damage.”
Jedrzejczyk (16-5 in MMA) plans to continue to be involved in the sport as a fighter manager.