In New York last month, Jędrzejczyk, the league’s first Polish female fighter, talked about her endorsement deal with Reebok and the ins and outs of being a MMA champion. Reebok’s taglines “Be More Human” and “Tough is Beautiful” were winning points with Jędrzejczyk. Wearing jeans, Reebok sneakers and a sweatshirt imprinted with a close-up Audrey Hepburn as “Holly Golightly” eclipsed by a mint-colored bubblegum bubble, the 28-year-old discussed the training and dedication her sport calls for. And as her star continues to rise, Jędrzejczyk said when she does catch a break on Sundays, she goes to church and spends time with her family.
WWD: What type of advice has Ronda given you?
Joanna Jędrzejczyk: She’s simply the best. And I follow her. I’m happy to be able to fight on the same card. She knows her goals and her dreams. She follows her dreams. She’s an Olympic medalist, so that means a lot to me. I met her for the first time in June at the Reebok event. I was super happy that I could meet Ronda. She was super nice.…This will be the first time the headline fight will be female fights. This is a big deal for all of us.
WWD: How did the UFC ask you?
J.J.: I got a text message from my manager on a Saturday asking me when I would be awake. I texted him and they asked me to fight. I just said yes right away. I texted him, “I am a UFC soldier.” I signed my first deal in June 2014 and have had four since. If you give 100 percent, they are going to give you 200 percent back. If you work hard and show to them that you are the best and you deserve it, then you’re going to get it. We’re doing this job for the UFC owners but they know how to treat us good. That’s motivating for us to work hard. It’s not about the money. For me, it’s about the sport. It’s my job.
WWD: You are a relative newcomer to the UFC. What made you get into MMA?
J.J.: I was kind of an active girl. I was into gymnastics in high school and I used to play on the basketball team. Then I just turned to Muay Thai and did that for 10 years. I stopped playing basketball because I had some problems with my health. I stopped for a few weeks, then a few months and I put on a little weight. So I wanted to lose a little weight and get in shape. After six months, I was in my first competition. I’ve just fallen in love with contact sports — that’s all.
WWD: But you still live in Poland?
J.J.: My city, Olsztyn, is about 180 km northeast of Warsaw. It’s a big city with about 180,000 people. It’s in an area that is kind of nice, lots of forest, lakes — 11 in the city — it’s the greenest part of Poland.
WWD: What do you like to do in New York?
J.J.: If I can, I shop. Eat. Hang out. I like New York so much. It’s a different energy. It’s always open.
WWD: Where have you traveled this year?
J.J.: Australia, Germany, the U.S. a few times and England. I used to live in Thailand for a few years. I trained there, because the mother of Muay Thai is Thai. Everyone does it there — every young boy, every man and almost every girl. They’ve got meets everywhere, competitions every day. Respect to the sport is one of the things I learned there. Before the fights, they do a dance called Wai Khru. You must show the respect to the coaches, to the audience, to your sport — it’s more about the history of the sport. I had the feeling in Thailand that I could live there. I love the culture, the people — they are smiling all the time. They are calm. They are not in a hurry like in America. You’re busy. Life here is different, so fast. People are living so fast.
WWD: Where did you get your sweatshirt?
J.J.: From my big sister, my twin. She’s an accountant. She fights in a different way, in numbers. We’re different but I love my family and I love my sisters. I have two. I am very close with them. They are very important to me. There’s no amount of money that can equal how I love my family and my country. I would choose my family over the career.
WWD: Have you seen “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”? The movie? The actress on your sweatshirt.
J.J.: No, no, honestly, I didn’t. I really don’t have time to watch TV. I am very busy. Every day I train twice a day. It could be an hour or two hours, it depends. I enjoy all of it. It’s my job. I really love my job. I enjoy every second of my training. We’re trying to be complete. We’re trying to just be better fighters.
WWD: Do you like fashion?
J.J.: Fashion? Why, do I look bad? [No, not at all.] Oh, OK. I do like fashion but I follow my own fashion. I love kicks [sneakers]. I love jeans. I am 100 percent a lady without wearing a dress. Sometimes I do wear high heels and a dress. But what you’re going to find in my room are skinny jeans, and some boyfriends as well. I have a sneaker collection of almost 100 pairs. I started collecting them two or thee years ago. You know I’m not drinking, I’m not smoking, I’m not using drugs, I’m not going to parties. People have so many bad addictions. But this is my good, healthy addiction. I’m a junkie, a sneaker junkie. People are like, “You are crazy.” What I can say is, “You’re crazy because you smoke. You’re wasting your life.” They are jealous because I’ve got all these kicks. But they shouldn’t be.
WWD: Do you reward yourself?
J.J.: I want to save as much as I can for my future and my family. I am a good saver. I don’t buy new cars and new apartments each year. I just want to make life easier for my family. My parents have a small grocery store that they have had for 20 years. They are hard workers but I want them to retire. I just want to take care of them as they did before with me and my sisters….My parents are good people. I worked in the store and sometimes still do. I like it. If I was not a fighter, I could be a good seller. It’s true. I could see myself as a boss. When I was 13 I would go to the store a lot, and my parents said, “No, you can’t be here. Go do your lessons.” But they knew I was a worker. I like to spend time with people and talk with people.