Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4, five finishes) came up just short of regaining the UFC strawweight title in an all-time classic against Zhang Weili (21-3, 17 finishes) in March 2020, just before the global pandemic took hold. More than two years later, she’s set to return for a three-round rematch against Zhang on the UFC 275 pay-per-view main card Saturday (10 p.m., ESPN+) at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore, with the winner, according to UFC president Dana White, earning a shot at champion Carla Esparza. Jedrzejczyk spoke this week via Zoom with The Post’s Scott Fontana for some Q&A in the Post Fight Interview.
Q: How have the past two years been for you without competition?
A: Actually, [it has] been great. I’m living my best life, and I was always like this. With the money, without the money, when I was a little girl or when I was teenager, I was always full of life and very grateful for every single day. So definitely, it was my time to catch the balance between the sports life and the success I had I approached, and not only the sports success but also the personnel and media success. I graduated [from] different studies. I launched my supplement company. I did my racing debut. I started playing tennis and piano. So, it’s been great, but I never forgot about training — that’s the most important thing — and getting better, learning.
Q: You said that you preferred not to fight without fans present during the pandemic. Were there other reasons you took such an extended break?
A: It was one of the reasons I haven’t fought because there were no fans at the arena but also because I was super busy. I’ve been doing martial arts for the last 19 years. … I’ve been competing for a while, and I just needed this break out of competition. Of course, I was renegotiating my contract. I was waiting for the top-ranked strawweight fighters, how the fights went. … I don’t need [an] easy fight. I want big fights only.
Q: Your last fight was an all-time classic against Zhang.
A: You know, some people [are] having [a] problem with this. They can’t understand why I will be [the] next challenger fighting for the strawweight belt. But people don’t get it. They’re like, “Oh, she hasn’t fought for awhile” but some people don’t know that I’m simply the best. I don’t need to prove it one more time that I’m one of the greatest.
Q: So it doesn’t matter where fighters such as Marina Rodriguez or Jessica Andrade are; this fight deserves to be the top contender fight for the belt?
A: Of course, and I know that I will get the title shot, me or Zhang Weili. This is what Dana White has said. … I always put on a hell of a fight. That’s the reason. Look at Rose [Namajunas’] last fight. Now look at mine and Rose’s fight. Look at Andrade and somebody’s fight. Look at mine and Andrade’s fight. That’s the reason I’m at the top, even without fighting for two years.
Q: How much did that fight take out of you mentally and physically at the time? Or was it really just another competitive fight to you?
A: This fight gave me more confidence, physically, mentally. It didn’t take anything from me. Maybe from Weili. I don’t know. We will find out on Saturday, but not from me. Definitely not. I would not be back. I don’t need more money, I [don’t] need more exposure. I [don’t] need this and that. I’m doing this for myself, my team, because I feel that I want to do it. And it’s a perfect feeling to be in the point of your life where you don’t have to do anything. You do things you want to do and things you really feel like you want to do. That’s the thing. It’s beautiful.
Q: You and Namajunas were interested in working together ahead of this fight. Did anything come of that once you two connected?
A: It was kind of weird. Funny. It’s very nice that Pat Barry reached out to me. His message went to my spam on Instagram to my DM, but Rose’s manager reached out to [American Top Team coach] Mikey Brown to get my number. I was really surprised. But it only shows how beautiful is this sport and that this sport is all about relationships, and this sport is all about people interacting with them, helping each other, even if we go and we beat the hell out of each other in every fight and there is sometimes bad blood between us. … It was very nice of Rose, but I was really too deep in the camp to change my sparring partners. But I’m looking forward to training with Rose in the future. I don’t know what the future holds for me and her. but let’s see. Let’s find out after this fight. But it was very nice of her and Pat Barry, and I got so many nice messages, like warm, kind and the love. I didn’t know they really like me and they somehow love me, and I’m sending the same love to them as well.
Q: Is there any bad blood with Zhang?
A: It’s a business. The hard work is done so many weeks before, and we’re preparing for this one night to be as entertaining as we can be. There’s no bad blood. We follow each other on social media. Sometimes, we go back and forth, like in the nice way. Now we [are] fighting, so we are rivals again. And, no, we [are] good. The good thing is that we both are super tough, physically, mentally. We are very well-rounded, decorated and dedicated fighters. We bring not only women’s MMA but MMA in general to the higher level, and this is what I love about [it]. In this fight, I want to be like a surgeon, pick the right moves, pick the right tools and use them in the right time and right moment.
Q: Typical walkaround weight between fights?
A: Probably like 135 [pounds], but I feel so healthy. And I see my body changed, so I might be even higher, but I feel I look lighter because I eat very healthy. I used to have very bad dieticians. I changed them [a] few times, but they messed [up] my organs, my hormones, everything. Right now, I’m not eating as many sweets as I used to. I eat very healthy, and I feel great. And it’s also because of my physiotherapist, who forced me to do more strength conditioning. … I need to thank [Clint Wattenberg] from [the] UFC Performance Institute. I’m very blessed, very thankful, very grateful that we have this Institute, so big shout out to the UFC and the whole crew. Clint is not here today, but his people are here to us and the other people. They are doing an amazing job. I almost died before the fight with Rose Namajunas at Madison Square Garden. It has been my third fight working with Clint, and I never felt better. Right now, my weight is super low. It’s 124 today, so it’s so easy. It’s so easy, and I feel strong. I’m still eating, and really these guys are amazing, very smart. very dedicated.
Q: What do you expect to weigh on Saturday?
A: I don’t want to put too much weight on. I don’t want to be too heavy. I need to be fast.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Man on Fire.”
Q: Favorite outdoor activity?
A: Rollerblading. Love it.
Q: Favorite video game?
A: I used to play “CounterStrike” back in the day with my brother-in-law. … What’s funny, a year ago we bought super good computers to play “CounterStrike” again but, of course, we don’t have time. We just launched our company together, my lab supplements company, so we totally don’t have time. He has a newborn baby. So. no. I have the Nintendo Switch, and I travel with it. Last time, I bought “Crash [Bandicoot],” but I haven’t played it.
Q: What’s a perfect day for you that doesn’t involve fighting?
A: Wake up, sunny day, warm, spring or summer in my house in Poland and going down, brewing coffee, feeling the [fragrance] of the coffee and going to my winter garden outside and being thankful and grateful for another day that I can be alive and I can enjoy it. And it’s all up to me how the day will go. And then have my favorite homemade granola — because I want to have my coffee shop in the future — just do some activity and stay with my family because we don’t know how much time we have left.