Joanna Jedrzejczyk has dedicated her life to greatness.
This 29-year-old Polish woman lives to be remembered. She almost seems fearful of any alternative.
It will be hard for anyone to forget what Jedrzejczyk (14-0) is doing with her life right now. The UFC's strawweight champion recorded her fifth dominant title defense last weekend, defeating Jessica Andrade via unanimous decision at UFC 211 in Dallas.
Jedrzejczyk's stock is on the rise, but it has not happened overnight. She has made countless sacrifices to reach the position she's in, and continues to do so. Starting in 2016, Jedrzejczyk started holding her fight preparations in Florida, away from her family, friends and fiancé back in Poland.
ESPN.com spoke to the 115-pound champion on a regular basis during her preparations for UFC 211, to provide insight into Jedrzejczyk, her life inside training camp and overall quest to be remembered.
'I'll live normal someday, but I have to do something first.'
I am excited to be in Florida again and in camp for Jessica. I know there will come a time in the middle of camp where I'll say I've had enough, that I'm so far away from my family and friends that I'll just want to be with them, eating pizza and drinking wine -- but I'll remind myself, 'Hold on. You can't be like 99.99 percent of the population, working from 8 to 4. Some people are happy with that and I will live a normal life someday, but I have to do something first. I need people to remember me.
It is always hard to leave home, though. I'm almost 30, but to my parents, I am their child. My mother cried. My father as well, even though he's a tough guy. But they know I must do this to be the best in the world. It's funny, when I'm home in Poland, I realize that I've lost so many friends because they couldn't understand my life. I've always wanted different things. I've always wanted to be someone. Some will come up to me now, many years later, and say, 'You were right, you had big dreams and you've reached them.'
I am so happy my fiancé understands this. We met at university seven years ago. I was living in Holland and coming home every two weeks to do school. We fell in love so quickly and he just understood from the beginning when I said, 'Hey, you are a good guy, I can see that, but I must live in Amsterdam right now.' He said, 'I really like you and we should be together.'
I will see my family and friends again at the fight, but I am here now and let Jessica come. I know she will be her best. I expect that. But she won't be able to do the championship rounds like me. That is why I'm the champion.
'I remember people would blame Ronda for her weight, but it's not that easy.'
This week has been pretty good. This camp is longer than usual. I was here in Florida four weeks early this year. I went home to see my family and now I am here for eight weeks.
The weight is coming off, but I did come to this camp heavier. It's difficult. I remember people would blame and make a big deal about Ronda Rousey, the weight she gained between fights, but it's not easy. With every fight, I put on more weight. It's not because I'm eating more. My body is smart. I cut 20 pounds to fight in this division. The body wants to hold on to its water and save its energy. That's why we get heavier. Our body wants to rebalance itself.
Hard day, in the middle of the camp, but happiness is at home 🏡 pasta 🍝 Thank U @paulinaindara & @perfecting_athletes 😍 | Mega ciężki dzień w połowie przygotowań do kolejnej walki, ale szczęście jest w domu🏡 Spaghetti🍝 Dziękuje @paulinaindara i @perfecting_athletes 😍 #eatlikejoanna #fightcamp #joannachampion #joannajedrzejczyk #AndStill #perfectingathletes #glutenfree #spaghetti #pasta #hardday #tasty #cleanfood #cleaneating #meal #lunch #reebok #tshirt #ufcchampion
My nutrition team with Perfecting Athletes is the best. Last night, I ate hot wings! I love hot wings! They cook food healthy and I am eating during camp. I used to starve myself. I've broken my hands twice in fights because I starved myself and there were no minerals in my bones.
My family sent me pictures. Ten years ago, my father built a house not far from the forest. We live in a beautiful area, the greenest part of Poland. My father likes to grow his own veggies and they sent me pictures of cured meats and vegetables. I will not taste this until after the fight, but my mother always asks what I want after a fight and it's always Polish food. I miss those things.
'I will say, I am injured pretty badly.'
The camp is still good, but I will say that I am injured pretty badly. My back is totally f----- up. Last week, I couldn't walk. I was crying because it was so much pain.
My physical therapist from Poland just got here Sunday and I'm so happy. I wish he could have been here already, but he's about to get married right after my fight. It's a crazy time for him and his fiancé, but she's an amazing person and let him come to help me.
The hard work is finished for the week👊🏼 Thanks @dyah_ali @dpolodara & @trishacicero 😃 | Już wystarczy pracy w tym tygodniu😉 Czas na weekend👊🏼 Dziękuje #teamjoanna za udany trening😃 #AndStill #UFC211 #ATTnation #perfectingathletes #joannamma #joannachampion #training #workout #hardwork #wmma #champion
I am not stressed about this, though. I believe I will be 100 percent the day of the fight. I am already feeling 90 percent better. I definitely don't want to pull out of the fight and if I didn't take care of it the best way, this fight could get canceled. I was supposed to not do anything, but yesterday I went for a run just to test how hard I could push it. I am not stupid, I know there are some limits. I felt pain sometimes but we will make sure I am 100 percent. Something like this makes me stronger. I am killing excuses.
I think about what I'm going to do in the next two years, what I'm going to do when I retire -- that's why I invest money in bringing my therapist here. Some fighters don't understand. They go to a chiropractor, for instance, who doesn't look for a problem. They just crack your back and neck and make you feel great for one day. We must take care of our bodies. I want to be a mom in the future and raise kids and I must be healthy for that. It's not an easy job. It's more difficult than fighting!
I think we are born stupid and die stupid but there is always some way to learn something new every day and I'm trying to learn about diet, healthy lifestyle, taking care of my body.
Last weekend was Easter, which is very important time as a Catholic. I bought Easter baskets and put Polish sausages in them. I wanted to show my team a bit of Polish culture. Holidays are always difficult. I remember I spent Christmas in Thailand one year and it was one of the most difficult moments of my life, my mother crying when we spoke on Skype. But I am on a mission.
'We do not want to get into a war with Jessica'
I ride my bike to American Top Team every day, and today I passed a bus and the driver beeped at me. He's such a funny guy. It's not crazy around here with fans, but ATT is one of the best gyms in the world and people know the best fighters are here in south Florida. So they support us.
My back feels great. My physical therapist has helped me and I can walk and train. Even with some pain, I went for training. No excuses. I'm training hard and smart. For a champion, it's not about the workouts you like, it's the ones you don't. When I started MMA, jiu-jitsu was very difficult. Now I plan on doing grappling tournaments after I retire. That is my goal.
Perfecting Athletes has two puppies and all the time people think these are my puppies. I brought Jasmine to the gym, but I saw a sign that said, 'No pets allowed!' I was like, 'No! Guys! Can I bring her, please?' So, what I did before I left home is draw a dog on a paper and wrote 'Service Dog.' I put it on plastic and brought the dog there and it was OK. Before, I didn't like small dogs but now I'm in love with them. My fiancé wants to get me one for Christmas but it is not fair, since I live in the U.S. But after my career, we are going to buy a dog right away.
There are people saying Jessica doesn't deserve to be a title challenger, while others say she's my toughest opponent. The game plan is to keep distance. We do not want to get into a war because she throws very short, loopy punches that are very dangerous. From the beginning of the fight, our game will be to keep distance and hurt her with long, strong punches and kicks.
'I think I could play really bad girls in movies'
The hard work is done. Yesterday was my last sparring. Sparring is always the worst part of camp because I am very hard on myself and you know what to expect from your body, but you are tired or dealing with injuries and can't be yourself. There are a lot of emotions sometimes, when you work with people you don't completely know and they want to show they can stay with a champion, but we choose good people to train with.
I spoke to my family and said, 'One week, I will see you!' I remember when I said that I had eight weeks to the fight. Then it was four and I was saying, 'It's still a month away!' Now we are almost here. After the fight, I want to take my young nephew to Disney World. He is the prince of our family and in the process of getting his first passport. Definitely before my next camp, I will try to have him in Florida.
Today, I fly to Los Angeles to meet the WME-IMG owners of the UFC. They are taking care of me and want to put on extra work outside the Octagon. I have signed with a new management company, Paradigm Sports, but I will not say that until after my fight. There is a long way to go to become a superstar. I'm not American and I know my English is not perfect. It's a longer wait for me than some others. I think I could play really bad girls in movies with my Eastern European accent! I like to do new things and could definitely see myself in a movie.
'I take one last deep breath, and then I feel home.'
I feel like I'm flying. I had some training today and it felt like I was flying. Tonight is all about being happy. My family is here. My twin sister, her husband, my cousin, my physical therapist, my family at Perfecting Athletes. It's good to have everyone here. For me it's extra power.
And it's good because it makes me realize that I don't have to be mad about something like, I didn't sleep well. Those things will drive me crazy. I do as much as I can every day to make my life better and sometimes those small things you can't control will drive me crazy. But it's true that you can't let those things take you over.
It's my 3rd full camp & weight cut with @perfecting_athletes and 2nd camp with @americantopteam.👊🏼 We have put in great work and now it's time to shine.☝🏼 Big thanks to all of you and everyone who helped me.🙏🏼 #joannajedrzejczyk #joannachampion #jjchamp #andstil #ufc211 #perfectingathletes #attnation #sanabulgear #sanabul
Winning is like an addiction, but I'm afraid of losing, too. That's why I must make sure it's not going to happen. I visualize my victory every day, but I also tell myself, 'You must win this fight.' I can't help but think, sometimes, if I'm going to cry or be broken or something like that if a loss were to happen. But I feel like it's not going to happen.
Just the fans during fight week -- I remember 13 years ago when I was saying I would make it work, through the s--- I went through with no money. I was crying in the car in the parking lot of a bank because I couldn't get any money to fly to Thailand for my career. I knew that life is special and I would be special, and now I am the UFC strawweight champion of the world. I could stop tomorrow and people would remember me, but not yet. I still have dreams.
The whole camp, I wait for this. The final countdown to the fight. I don't feel stress. Before I step in the Octagon, I pray one last time. I always take one last deep breath. And then I feel home. It's so calm and quiet. It's all about me. They let me shine. Some people cannot believe that is how it feels, but when I'm in there, I'm home.