If Joanna Jedrzejczyk wasn't known to most UFC fans prior to 2015, she surely leaped onto their radars following her crushing knockout of inaugural strawweight champion Carla Esparza at UFC 185.
Jedrzejczyk was 2-0 in the UFC and 8-0 in her MMA career at the time she faced the gritty Esparza, winner of the televised series The Ultimate Fighter: A Champion will be Crowned. The victory made Jedrzejczyk the UFC's first champion from Poland and only its third European champion, joining Bas Rutten in 1999 and Andrei Arlovski in 2005.
And now, she is poised to defend her title on Saturday against Valerie Letourneau. Joanna sat down with AOL Sports to discuss her career and how excited she is for the big event in Australia.
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Q: Throughout the last year, it's kind of been your coming-out party. What has that been like?
A: Last year was super busy. So many fights, so often, but I'm happy. I had my debut in July and I'm really happy to become a champion.
Q: What is the most difficult part of preparing for a fight?
A: For me, conditioning is the most important part because you can do whatever you want. They can take me down, but I keep getting up. Conditioning is the most important. I'm focused on everything, though. I'm trying to compete, so I'm not trying to focus on striking only.
Q: This is the first time an event is held in Melbourne and also the first time in history that two women are fighting on same card. What does being a part of history mean to you?
A: I went to Australia a couple weeks ago and it's really amazing. The fans are going to be there for us and I'm happy for me and Ronda.
Q: Did you have a previous friendship with Ronda before this event?
A: No, I met her in June in New York. I've been following her, though. She's one of the best MMA fighters ever and she's the best in UFC. I follow her and I follow the best. That's all I can say. She's a superstar, and she's got a lot to do, but I definitely support her.
Q: How did you get into fighting and how did it become a profession for you?
A: I didn't expect to be a professional when I was young because I didn't have any professional athletes in my family. I became the first one. I was always into sports (in school).
Q: Looking ahead to the event, what do you know about Valerie Letourneau and how have you prepared for her?
A: She's one of the toughest opponents for me. She's a striker too. It's going to be a tough an interesting fight. I'm ready for her. I feel like I'm ready.
Q: Thinking about women's fighting and how far it's come, are you surprised at how popular it's become?
A: I'm really happy. I want to work harder and do my best to bring women's fighting even higher. There's always room to do more.
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