UFC 248: Weili takes on Jedrzejczyk, Adesanya faces off against Romero

Joanna Jedrzejczyk was unbeaten for 14 months before finally losing the title after defeats to Rose Namajunas and Valentina Shevchenko.

Zhang Weili has now won all four of her UFC fights holds a 20-fight winning streak in all competitions.   -  AFP

On International Women’s Day, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Zhang Weili will take each other on in UFC 248 in the women’s strawweight category. Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero will spar in the middleweight category in the main event for men in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Reigning champion Weili will be wary of former champion Jedrzejczyk. The Polish MMA fighter won her first title in her third UFC fight back in 2015, going on to defend the title five times over the next two years. Jedrzejczyk was unbeaten for 14 months before finally losing the title after defeats to Rose Namajunas and Valentina Shevchenko.
Since then much has changed for the fighter. She is now training with American Top Team and hails the improvements.

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“Definitely my wrestling and my jiu-jitsu,” JJ, as she’s popularly called, said about the changes since joining the MMA gym. “I like the style of American wrestling, it's totally different than Eastern European (style). I'm lighter, I'm a very technical fighter, and I find the American style is fast and suits me more. I feel like my whole game has been improving.” she added.

JJ made weight comfortably ahead of the bout against Weili but has endured weight complications throughout her career. “I am working with Clint Wattenberg at the UFC Performance Institute who is an athlete himself, so he’s very experienced and knows what to do. My weight is super low, so I'm very happy to face fight week.,” the 32-year-old said.

Asked what she made of her opponent Weili, Jedrzejczyk said, “Weili is very muscular and powerful.  She goes for submissions but isn’t very technical.”

The headliner is confident in her experience and believes that it will help her get the better of the Chinese fighter. “I have to be careful and focused and don't play games with her. But I'm a more decorated athlete and I have more experience. I think that she hasn't faced someone like me. But of course she's at the top right now and she's the best. She's my next big challenge, but my reach, distance, footwork, and conditioning are much better,” she added.
 


 

While a resurgent Jedrzejczyk is plotting a return to the top, Weili’s title is well and truly under threat. Her Polish opponent has issued a warning that she will take back the belt that once belonged to her. Weili's response proves there’s no love lost between these two.

“Joanna is a stand-up MMA fighter. I think she's sometimes too emotional. She always talks trash before the fight and tries to draw attention. It doesn't bother me at all.” the 30-year-old said.

Dismissing JJ’s reliance on confidence as past glory, Weili said, “Joanna was the champion, so she's been my imaginary opponent for a long time. So I've prepared a lot for her style. I'm not worried about it.”

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Weili, nicknamed Magnum, is China’s first UFC champion claiming the title with a stunning 42-second knockout of Brazil’s Jessica Andrade. She has since been touring the world but insists life isn’t too different.

“Not much has changed. I just keep working hard. I'm definitely a lot busier than before, a lot of media obligations. Sometimes I'm recognised on the street,” said the fighter from Handan, a city with rich MMA heritage.

When asked about the difference between regional championships she used to fight in and an enterprise like UFC, Weili said, “Being the UFC champion is huge for me. It is the mecca for fighters globally. This is the best organisation in the world so there’s a huge difference.”

Weili and Jedrzejczyk will fight at 8.30am IST on Sunday and the bout will be broadcasted on the Sony Sports Network and Sony Liv.