RIO DE JANEIRO – UFC fighters are known to wait for title shots – even if they’re not necessarily next in line.
Jessica Andrade is not one of those fighters.
Andrade (18-6 MMA, 9-4 UFC), who’s found success in the 115-pound division after a bumpy 135-pound run, is in a good spot. Although she’s had her shot at the belt, which she failed to get from then-champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk, she’s now back on a roll with consecutive wins over fellow contenders Claudia Gadelha and Tecia Torres.
While nothing has been said officially, Andrade has been touted as a possible next challenger – including by ex-champ Jedrzejczyk. But even if that’s the case, Andrade is not too interested in waiting around.
“I’m doing great, both mentally and in terms of training,” Andrade said this past weekend while attending UFC 224 in Rio de Janeiro. “I’m waiting for my next fight. It might happen that I fight for the belt, but for me, I’m good with whoever comes (next). I’d like to do another fight before I fight for the belt – even for financial reasons because we need to be in a good place to do a camp for a title fight.”
It’s a risk, but it’s a familiar one for Andrade. After a canceled first attempt at meeting Angela Hill at UFC 207 in Las Vegas, where Andrade was originally set to meet Maryna Moroz, Andrade’s manager told MMAjunkie Radio that the strawweight had actually been offered a title shot already, but she declined because she wanted time and more money to put together a title-worthy camp.
It paid off then: Andrade rescheduled the fight with Hill for UFC Fight Night 104, stamping her ticket to meet Jedrzejczyk at UFC 211. Despite a good effort, Andrade was the loser via unanimous decision. Jedrzejczyk went on to meet champ Rose Namajunas, to whom she lost title fights as both champion and challenger.
As far as the line for a title shot goes, at this point Andrade, who’s No. 3 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA women’s strawweight rankings, would have one main competitor: Karolina Kowalkiewicz, a fellow ex-title-challenger who is also on a two-fight winning streak. Kowalkiewicz, ranked No. 5, and Andrade were actually slated to fight each other before their respective meetings with Felice Herrig and Torres.
According to a transcript by MMANYTT.com, Kowalkiewicz cited pneumonia as a reason she pulled out – and said she wanted to reschedule Andrade, who didn’t want to wait. Andrade, in turn, told Brazilian reporters earlier at UFC 224 that an injury was given as a reason for the Polish contender to withdraw. Either way, it seems Andrade would still be up for that one, though she doesn’t think Kowalkiewicz is on the same page.
“The biggest difficulty I’m having is finding opponents,” Andrade said. “I’ve asked for Karolina, who’s one of the highest-ranked (strawweights). She doesn’t want to fight me. Joanna already has a fight booked against Tecia, so that’s someone who’s out of the question. And Namajunas only wants to fight in October, so that’ll be very hard for me.
“I can’t find opponents. The girls don’t want to fight. I’ve been asking the UFC all the time. I think it’s been hard to find girls who want to fight me. But I’m waiting. I’ll wait. Who knows, maybe Namajunas will want to fight before that and I’ll have that title shot before I imagined.”
Andrade is so eager to fight that she’d be willing to take a much lower-ranked opponent.
“I’d like to fight anyone in the division, out of the top five,” Andrade said. “But there probably won’t be anyone. So it could be a top-10 (opponent). That would still work for me. Because if Namajunas won’t fight until October, that’s too long for me to wait. So I’d have to do another fight to be able to have money to do a good camp for the belt.”
Of course, there’s an option that has opened up recently: taking a fight in the UFC’s 125-pound women’s division. The still-blooming weight class could be an interesting fit for Andrade, who had to make a 20-pound drop from bantamweight before making the ultimately successful move to 115.
Despite initial weight concerns, however, Andrade said she feels great in the division currently ruled by Namajunas. She’s got the results to back that up too and is not too interested in leaving it behind. But that doesn’t mean a flyweight foray is entirely out of the question.
“The division has been very good for me, so I don’t feel like changing,” Andrade said. “But if there was a special fight for me in the upper division I’d for sure take it.”
For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
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