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Growing at all costs: Jessica Andrade’s drive for success

Dan Tom

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Post UFC 207, the streets of Las Vegas still show signs of the storm as most businesses begin to open back up and most people are just now recovering from a crazy New Years weekend. However, one key player from last weekend’s fight festivities remains in Las Vegas, working away as if no event ever happened.

That is because no event ever did happen for one Jessica Andrade. Originally slated to face Maryna Moroz, Andrade would find herself having to accept a replacement opponent just 3-weeks out from her scheduled bout. Having no problem in facing the offered fighter in Angela Hill, Andrade would once again find herself opponent-less just one-week later due to a USADA testing pool technicality. With the UFC seemingly having no luck in scrambling to find an opponent for Jessica, the Brazilian prospect was officially removed from the card just 9-days out. Although that sympathetic story makes for a playable violin, Andrade prefers playing on a punching bag as she has seemingly parlayed this experience into a positive.

“It is unfortunate that the fight got canceled–especially in the way that it was, but we are just trying to make the most out of it since we’re already here in Vegas. Luckily, Tiago has a lot of good contacts and my coach is very open to letting us try different things and trying to work with different people to try and learn new stuff. We were able to work a lot with Angelo, work on the boxing, go to Drysdale’s and work on the grappling, so overall I am 100% sure that I am going out of Vegas a better fighter that I am coming in.”

When asking Andrade about expanding on her experiences here in Las Vegas, and how it related to her current run for the title, the Brazilian contender gave an interesting answer that certainly made it clear as to where she sees her future heading.

“For sure, all the fans can expect a better Jessica coming out of this and one of the best things that we already got to do was we got a chance to train with a lot of people that had trained with Joanna before, so a lot of people had very good insight on many things regarding her and I think that overall, I am coming out of Vegas with a much better chance of putting on a fight and taking the belt back to Brazil whenever that fight happens.”

Considering the trend of many Brazilians that have come before Jessica, I was curious if she had any intentions of making more permanent visits to the United States whether they be residential or just for training camp purposes.

“Eventually, I think that is something that we could do, even (my)coach wants to come up here. The thing is, in Brazil, the training is not as technical on a lot of aspects. Back home, there is a lot of ‘face punching’ you know? A lot of being tough, but by learning the small technical details, it makes a lot of differences and this is something that we have here with Angelo and with Drysdale on both sides of the spectrum. Eventually, I think this could be the right move. Before, I was not as ready emotionally I think, but now I am in a better place and I think that I am able to learn and hold information better. If this was a year ago, maybe they would show me these things and I pretty much would not get it. I might lose most of the information that I got and would not be able to put it into practice. But now, after earning my purple belt, I think I am more mature and can make the most out of this opportunity.”

I found this answer from Andrade refreshing, as I could clearly see the comradery and closeness she had with her head coach Gilliard Parana and Manager, Tiago Okamura. To me, they represented a team that was truly symbiotic in the way in which they collectively thought to achieve goals without ego or issue. Despite the 10 victores that Jessica has earned under Gilliard’s PRVT Team, Parana has no issues in loosening leashes and allowing for growth as they all seem to have had high praise for the work of renown striking coach, Angelo Reyes.

“It was really nice that coach Angelo validated a lot of the work that we do in Brazil. The good thing is that he has a good eye on how to improve on the work that we do. He is not trying to change anything that I do, he is not trying to put a new game in my head, but he is trying to give me things that would help me become a better fighter. He showed us a lot of techniques, has a good eye for finding holes in our game, and he was able to point out a lot of details that we knew were a problem, but could not point out exactly why. That, I think is the major thing that we are taking from this time with Angelo–his analysis of the game and the way he is able to find things that can make us go around the problems is very good, it is not something we would find in Brazil.”

With tactical training accounted for, the looming question still remained as I asked Andrade if the UFC had helped compensate her financially through this time or if they were at least able to reach out with possible re-bookings.

“Right now, we are waiting for one more fight. The UFC has mentioned the title fight as something within our reach, though there weren’t any talks of going straight to the title fight. But, to be honest, we are in our second fight in this division and I think that there is a lot of work to be done still. We are not taking this lightly, you know? If we are gonna go for the title, we are gonna go to get the belt. And for that, we need to have enough money to put into camp. We need to do one more fight and make sure that we are capitalizing to a point to where we can do a proper investment and make this the best camp that I can because I am not going there just to be another title defense for Joanna, we’re going there to take the belt.”

With no real clear answers, much less confirmations, I asked Andrade what her ideal matchup would be if she could call her shot. Wasting little time in naming a fighter, Jessica would reveal some potential issues she had with a former champion.

“The ideal scenario would have been to have fought on 207 against Angela and then we could be focused right now with money in the bank, ready to spend it so that we have the best camp possible. But since that did not happen, right now we are just waiting. The UFC has not given us an official date or an official opponent, but we are hoping to fight Angela in January or February. We could have taken on Carla Esparza, Carla is someone we have been trying to fight with since early on. That was supposed to be our first fight at strawweight, but for whatever reason, she ended taking a fight with Juliana Lima and I had to fight Penne. That is a fight that is stuck in our throats a little bit, but we really want to do it and it would be a good fight to validate my run for the title. For me to go and beat number three, that would make a lot of sense in the division, but I guess that is not in her plans. She apparently has another fight lined up, but we will see against who because let’s be honest, it has been 21-months since Carla has fought anyone that was highly ranked and now I am hoping she fights someone in the Top-5 to validate her position in the rankings.”

Potential shade aside, Andrade showed little distraction as she seemed more than focused on the bigger picture at play.

“The main thing is that I don’t want anyone to look at me and say that I skipped ahead of the line, so I want to make sure that we did our work in the division. Although I am coming into my 10th-fight in the UFC, I only fought two at strawweight so I want to make sure that I beat up everyone that I have to beat up, get my right place in the rankings, and get the title fight when it is the real time.”

And although the real time for a title shot can be hard to predict in this day in age, I do feel that the strawweight division has itself a real contender it can get excited about as I hope Jessica Andrade gets an opportunity to shine sooner rather than later.

Jessica Andrade interview audio here:

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Announcement

Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223

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UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.

 

Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.

After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.

A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.

Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.

Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.

A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.

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Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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Fight Announcements

Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April

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MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.

 

The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.

Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.

An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.

His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).

Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.

PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.

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