UFC veteran Jéssica Andrade makes her fifth walk to the Octagon in 2023 at UFC 295: Procházka vs Pereira, where she challenges submission ace Mackenzie Dern in Madison Square Garden.
Andrade becomes the 12th fighter in UFC history to compete five times in a calendar year alongside the likes of Donald Cerrone, Neil Magny, Roger Huerta and Kevin Holland. The former strawweight champion, who signed with the UFC in 2013, has reached numerous milestones over the last decade, including competing in the most fights in UFC women’s history with 25, and recording the second most wins with 15, only trailing one of the greatest champions of all-time, Amanda Nunes, who holds the record with 16 wins.
“I'm delighted that the UFC has given me the opportunity to fight five times,” Andrade said. “Hopefully I'll end the year with a win. I'm more than ready for what's coming up this weekend. So that's five fights this year, 26 in total in my UFC career. Let's make history.
“I never stopped training. So, every time I got called for a fight, I was already training. Or, I was just having a break for a week, but my coach would say, ‘Look, we're fighting again,’ so I will start training again. This year has been a great learning experience, to make me understand that I can't stop training, and I hope to do the same next year. Maybe I don't get to have five fights in the year, but I hope to have the opportunity to get at least three fights next year.”
In 2019, Andrade solidified herself as one of the all-time greats at 115 pounds in her second attempt to claim the strawweight title. Falling short against Joanna Jędrzejczyk two years earlier, Andrade faced then-champion Rose Namajunas at UFC 237 in Brazil. In the second round, Andrade lifted Namajunas into the air, and slammed her into the mat to score a knockout victory to become strawweight champion in her home country.
No longer champion, and currently on the longest winless run of her career, suffering three consecutive defeats to Erin Blanchfield, Yan Xiaonan and Tatiana Suarez, Andrade still has her sights fixed on reclaiming that throne before she calls it a career.
“Unfortunately, in the strawweight [division], any mistake can be a deadly one, the fight can end and that's what happened to me,” Andrade said. “At some point in all three fights, I made a mistake, and I ended up losing. But I believe this is all a lesson to improve, to come back better. And that's why I'm here, to get in the Octagon, to give my best shot, and I will get the win this weekend to (move closer to) become champion again. But for that to happen, I must win this fight. So, I learned a great deal from those three losses. I just need to execute the strategy that my team came up with, and when the fight comes, I just need to focus on the fight, and nothing else.”
The situation Andrade finds herself in perfectly depicts the type of competitor she is. Is she on a three-fight skid? Sure. But the 32-year-old isn’t afraid to accept her fifth fight in less than a year against one of the strawweight division’s scariest contenders in Dern, who’s coming off one of her most impressive victories to date against Angela Hill in May.
During her fight week interview with UFC.com, Andrade said she always finds a new hobby for every training camp to try and relieve some stress as the fight gets closer. During her preparation for Dern, Andrade took a page out of former flyweight champion Brandon Moreno’s book.
“With time, we learn how to deal with our body, our mind, all the things we need to do, the dieting,” Andrade said. “So, I looked for different things for this camp. I started building Lego sets. So that really helps me unwind my mind. I go to my training sessions feeling better. In my spare time, I just start building my Lego set and this was really important for me during camp. And with each camp, I always end up finding a new hobby, something different for me to do, something that helps you unwind and get ready for the training and the fight.”
Competing In Madison Square Garden for the first time in her career, Andrade was nearly left speechless at just how special of a moment it is for her to fight in one of the world’s most famous venues. So not only does Andrade want to win, but she wants to do it emphatically.
Dern has shown vast improvements in her striking and confidence on the feet; she’ll stand and trade with all her opponents, despite being a world-renowned grappler. Andrade, who is looking for a knockout on Saturday, claims her striking pedigree is just as good as Dern’s jiu-jitsu.
“Mackenzie is a really tough fighter,” Andrade said. “She is just as experienced on the ground as I am as a striker. I know it will be a really difficult fight. But I'm ready for it. Mackenzie won the jiu jitsu world championship many times, her striking has been evolving a lot in her last fights, we can see that. But I'm ready for this challenge. I'm ready to face Mackenzie. And I hope she's also ready because we can put on a show.
“I hope I can win this fight with a knockout. I believe Mackenzie will try to stand with me in the beginning of the fight, but just to shorten the distance. But as soon as someone lands a punch, the strategy might change. But I think this fight will play with Mackenzie striking with me, then trying to take me down so she can work with her jiu-jitsu, which is excellent, but I'm training all kinds of takedowns attempts. I’m also training my striking. So, I'm sure it will be a tough fight. And I hope this fight doesn't go the distance because I'll be looking for a knockout all the way.”
UFC 295: Procházka vs Pereira took place live from Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 11, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!