Interviews

Published on September 18th, 2019 | by Percy Crawford

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Michelle Waterson Not Holding Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s Losses Against Her; Expects Her to Be Hungry on October 12Th!

Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson will be returning to the Octagon on October 12th to face former reigning champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

Michelle Waterson currently holds a 17-6 record (3-knockouts, 9-submissions and 5-decisions), during a career that started over 12-years ago. She made her professional debut without any amateur experience. She has been a staple in the UFC’s strawweight division and on October 12th, she has the opportunity to stake her claim for a title shot against newly crowned champion, Weili Zhang if she could defeat the dangerous, Jedrzejczyk. Currently riding a 3-fight winning streak, Waterson understands the importance of this fight and the threat that the former champion presents. Waterson-Jedrzejczyk will headline UFC Fight Night on October 12th on ESPN+

I recently spoke with “The Karate Hottie” to discuss her upcoming fight, why she felt it was important to see a sports psychologist and balancing motherhood and her career.

You are preparing for your October 12th fight against, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. How is preparation going?

Michelle Waterson: Camp is amazing. It’s all about enjoying the process, loving each day as we get through it and I honestly feel like with each camp that I get through I learn more about myself as a martial artist and myself as a person. That’s all I can ask for.

When I watch your open workouts, look at your social media, it looks like you are having a lot of fun and enjoying the process more. Is that because you are doing what you love for a living or is it that you’re just getting more comfortable with who you are as a fighter?

Michelle Waterson: I think it’s probably a combination of the both of them. I have been fighting professionally for over 12-years and sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming when you allow it to consume you. You have gotten to this level and you realize how big of a stage you truly are on. It can be overwhelming. At the end of the day, we’re all just human and we are all just striving to do our best and to do what we love to do. Martial arts and fighting is what I love to do. It’s what allows me to grow as a person. I would choose to do nothing else.

I’m sure there has to be some sort of balance between motherhood and being a fighter. Do you feel you have found that balance in raising your daughter or is that something you feel you will forever be in pursuit of?

Michelle Waterson: There’s definitely a balance. I probably fight twice a year and I think that’s why because it does take a lot of sacrifice sometimes. When I’m not fighting, I try to be a dedicated mom because I have a daughter who have dreams and ambitions as well and I need to be there to fuel her flame and toke her fire.

October 12th is a huge fight for you, when you look at, Joanna now and the fact that she has loss 3 of her last 4, what do you think of her as a fighter because I’m sure you are preparing for the best version of her because her back is somewhat against the wall?

Michelle Waterson: I don’t think you can knock her for the people she lost too. She loss to the 125-pound champion and she lost to, Rose Namajunas who was a good champ and was actually beating, Andrade up until she got slammed. There is nothing to be ashamed of for that. I still hold the same type of respect for, Joanna’s game and her ability as a fighter if not more. Like you said, she’s going to be hungry.

You dealt with a 2-fight losing streak and then you won 3-consecutive. Did you change something up or did you just find a rhythm? What was the keys to your consistency?

Michelle Waterson: The key was to not compare one fight to the next. Every fight is different. Every opponent is different and every time you step into the Octagon, you’re a different fighter. So, the key is to not hold on to your last fight. Let it go and move forward. Take whatever the outcome is as a step forward and that’s what I chose to do. To embrace my journey and to know that everything happens for a reason and to allow it to let me grow as a fighter.

You will be giving up a height and reach advantage in this fight, do you feel like if you’re at your best, that won’t come into play or do you think you have to do your best to close that distance?

Michelle Waterson: You know, at the end of the day, both of us are going to weigh-in at 115 and if anything, I think it might be a disadvantage for her because she’s cutting so much weight coming back down from 125 to 115. I’ve dealt with it all. I actually came into the UFC as a natural atomweight and moved up to strawweight. If I didn’t think I could fair with these girls in the division, I wouldn’t have moved up here. Cortney Casey was huge, everybody talked about how that was going to affect me, and it didn’t. Everybody talked about how, Felice’s size and strength was going to affect me, and it didn’t. Everybody talked about how Karolina’s movement was going to affect me, and it didn’t. It’s the same old story. People are going to overlook me and that’s fine. I’m just going to go out there and do what I do.

Now that you are naming all of those instances, you have been counted out a lot. Have you been able to use it as fuel or does it get aggravating to constantly have to prove doubters wrong?

Michelle Waterson: It is what it is. I choose to fight because it fuels me and allows me to grow. It allows me to learn more about myself each time. Not only learn more about myself but learn more about the world and how easily people’s minds are swayed once you put everything on the line.

We see more athletes doing this and you were one of them. You brought in a sports psychologist, what made you seek out a sports psychologist and how do you feel it has helped you?

Michelle Waterson: I think that it is important to align your mind with your body; especially in combat sports. The fight is won or loss before you enter the Octagon. You can be in the best physical shape possible, but if you don’t have the right mindset then you can lose. It’s happened to people more times than I can count. Fighting is a mental sport and if you don’t understand how important the mental training is, then you haven’t decided to take yourself to that next level.

You alluded to being counted out and fans and media being easily swayed. Fighting is a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Has it helped you deal with the ups and downs of the sport as well?

Michelle Waterson: It put things into perspective for sure. Win or lose, the world will continue to spin. People will move on. They will talk about the fight for a day or two and then there is another fight the next week. But when I come home, I have a family here that cares and loves me. They see me put in the hard work and grind and they continue to love me. Honestly, that stuff matters to me more than what anybody else from the outside says.

Does that approach lift a weight off of your shoulders therefore allowing you to go into these fights more relaxed?

Michelle Waterson: I go into the fights relaxed because that’s the best way that I perform. But the truth is, I don’t go into fights thinking, win or lose my family still loves me. To me, that’s another excuse or justification. The truth is, I’m going into the fight to win. Yes, I’m going to be pissed if I lose. It is a comfort… maybe that’s a better way of putting it. It is comforting to know that, there will always be people in my corner that matter.

On paper, this fight has all of the makings to be an awesome fight. Is that what you are expecting a fast-paced type of fight or do you think Joanna will be more cautious and trying to fight a mistake free fight because she needs a win badly?

Michelle Waterson: I think, Joanna has always had that type of patient fighting style. She’s always had that stubborn kind of style where she’s trying to pull her opponent into her playing field; which is striking. That’s always what she has done. I look forward to seeing that. You alluded to it, she’s coming off of a loss because before she went up to 25, she did beat, Tecia Torres at 115. It’s nothing to hang her low to lose to the 125-champ. If anything, I think that she’s going to come in, excited to be back at 115 and after seeing the fights down in China, I’m sure she’s got her eyes back on the belt again, but so do I. It’s going to definitely be a clash of wills because she’s proven that she has the skills to be champ and stay champ for quite a long time. I think the fight is going to come down to who wants it more.

In no way can you overlook, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, but like you said, your eyes are on the title as well. What do you think of the new champ, Weili Zhang?

Michelle Waterson: I think that she was very determined to get the belt. It just so happened that everything came into fruition for her. She was ready and prepared to take advantage of the opportunity that presented itself and she did an amazing job.

I remember when you first got involved in this thing, to be headlining an event with a warrior like, Joanna, what does that mean to you because the women have come so far in this sport?

Michelle Waterson: I think it’s amazing and it’s for a great reason. We come and we show up and put on good shows. Think about it, when you think about the strawweight’s, no one thinks about knockouts and this and that. But Andrade got TKOed, when Andrade fought, Rose, she Hulk slammed her for a KO. So, when you think about knockouts and strawweight’s, you normally don’t put those two things together, but the strawweight division is so stacked, it’s an accomplishment to be a part of the division in itself. I know we are going to bring the same type of fire come October 12th.

What can fans tuning in expect from, Michelle Waterson on October 12th?

Michelle Waterson: They can expect the best version of me to show up. This is my chance and my opportunity to go out there and be myself, do what I love to do and give the fans a show. That’s what I expect to do.

I appreciate you taking time out of your camp to chat with me, good luck to you in October and we will talk again soon. Give me some closing thoughts before I let you go.

Michelle Waterson: If you’re not going to be in Tampa, Florida watching the fight personally with your own eyes inside of the arena, make sure you tune-in to EPSN because it’s going to be a night you don’t want to miss.

 


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