Coach Mike Brown with everything you need to know about Joanna Jedrzejczyk's UFC 231 preparation
TORONTO – Mike Brown has spent the past several years working closely with Joanna Jedrzejczyk. The former WEC champion and current standout coach at American Top Team has seen Jedrzejczyk go through tumultuous weight cuts during her strawweight title reign, but has nothing but positive reviews about her preparation for Saturday’s flyweight title bout against Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 231.
Check out the Q&A below (or watch the video above) as Brown details Jedrzejczyk’s (15-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) past, present and future ahead of the matchup with Shevchenko (15-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) at UFC 231, which takes place at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.
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What kind of difference have you seen with Joanna during this training camp without having to make the grueling weight cut down to strawweight?
“She was killing herself to make that weight and that’s not the way to do it. She used to compete at 125 in muay Thai. If there was a 125, she would have been competing at that weight the whole time in the UFC. But because it was ’15 and ’35, she was small for ’35. She was making ’15, but then as she was maturing, as she was training and lifting weights, she was gaining muscle and getting bigger. So that 115 was getting tougher and tougher to make. It was getting to be such a problem that I think it cost her a fight (against Rose Namajunas for the title).”
“Her energy level’s so much better. Before she always had a good attitude, but as the camp wore on, she’s starving herself. Really, really low calories. Like 1,000 calories a day type of diet, waking up doing fasted cardio when you wake up. Doing this every day. Then trying to train on top of that. Sparring and everything, it’s just not good for you. As the camp wore on, her energy levels – camp was becoming a drag and probably her mental focus was off. But with her eating, she’s much better, much sharper and much better.”
Joanna was obviously a world champion at strawweight and defended her belt multiple times. How much can her performance be enhanced without cutting that additional 10 pounds?
“I feel like when a fighter is killing themselves to make the weight, that’s not the way to do it. It’s better to move up. You’re going to have more success, and in my personal experience of what I’ve dealt with, all the fighters who have moved up have been killing it. Kyoji (Horiguchi) was at 125 and now he’s at 135; he’s 7-0 at 135 with four KOs and one submission. Dustin Poirier moved up to ’55, and I think he’s 6-1 with five KOs and ready for a title shot. Tony Martin, he was 1-3 in his last four, now he’s 3-0 at 170 and got his first knockout in his UFC career. Valerie Letourneau lost four in a row and now she’s up at 125 and (is fighting for a title). She is not undersized for 125.”
How much consideration did you give Shevchenko’s three victories over Joanna in muay Thai when preparing for this fight? Are those bouts at all relevant?
“Maybe in a small way (it’s relevant) for Valentina. Confidence is big. Maybe in some way this gives Valentina confidence, but Joanna doesn’t lack confidence. … They fought a long time ago, nearly 10 years ago. It’s hard to take a lot from those fights because they’re so long ago, they’re completely different fighters. It’s a different sport. Joanna was really young in her muay-Thai career and a lot has changed since then.”
“It’s so different and such a different world. They’re so different. Over 10 years ago in a different sport? That’s like two guys that are in a wrestling match when they were in high school and now they’re fighting 10, 15 years later.”
Joanna said that even if she wins that title at UFC 231 she intends on returning to the strawweight division to continue her pursuit of regaining that belt. What do you think of that plan?
“She could make it again if she wanted to. She could make it. I’m happy at ’25. I would rather he stay at ’25, but I know in her mind she wants to do it, and she’s pretty determined, so who knows? But I think 125 is going to be a better place for her.”
What does Joanna need to do to win this fight against Valentina?
“She’s got to be her. She’s got to do what she does best. She’s got to keep a high pace, a lot of volume and then mix it up. She has a lot of new tricks that we don’t want to tip our cards to, but she’s a great fighter. World class. She’s got to put her game on Valentina. Valentina, I believe, is going to try to sit back and counter, and she might try to take Joanna down. This is also a possibility, it’s a new wrinkle to her game and she’s good at doing it. Joanna has a lot of new tricks, too. She’s super hard working, she’s aggressive all the time and a great athlete. She’s coming a better fighter by the day, by the week, by the month, and I think we’re going to see that.”