Ahead of her fight at UFC 212 against Karolina Kowalkiewicz in Brazil, No. 1 ranked strawweight contender Claudia Gadelha made some major changes to her training camp.
Not only did she leave the only team she had ever known in Brazil, but Gadelha relocated full time to the United States to begin working with head coach Chris Luttrell, who is a black belt under famed trainer Greg Jackson.
The sudden shift may have come as a surprise to many considering Gadelha uprooted her entire life to join a new team while she was already ranked as the top fighter at 115-pounds outside of champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Article continues below …
As it turns out, Gadelha’s move to a new team was actually directly connected to her most recent loss to Jedrzejczyk from 2016.
“After my fight with Joanna, I decided I needed to do different things. You can’t expect different results if you keep doing the same thing you’re entire life,” Gadelha explained when speaking with FOX Sports. “I trained at the same camp my whole life and MMA has changed so much, the game has changed so much.
“I needed to different things and I decided to go to the U.S. to try different things.”
When she began looking for a new place to call home, Gadelha did plenty of research because as much as she wanted to learn a new system under a new head coach, she also didn’t want to erase the hard work she put forth to get her to the top of the division in the first place.
After months of searching, Gadelha finally found Luttrell and his camp, which is also affiliated with the famed Jackson-Winkeljohn academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There, Gadelha got the best of all words with a head coach committed to getting her back to the strawweight championship as well as a network of fighters that would always push her to get even better.
“I didn’t want to go anywhere where I would change my game completely. That’s why I was studying all the possibilities, to find the best coach to add new tools to my game without changing me. Chris Luttrell is somebody that works perfect for what I do in MMA plus I get to train at Jackson’s with all the amazing fighters and trainers and I think that’s the best thing I did,” Gadelha explained.
“I feel different. I feel great. It’s kind hard to explain because it’s so new to me. I have to challenge myself and go somewhere that’s different. I’m trying different things 24/7. I’m excited to perform. I’m excited to see how I’m going to perform. I feel like I became a better athlete, I have more mobility, everything is in the right place. I feel much better than I used to.”
Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Gadelha will get the opportunity to show off all the new tricks she’s learned when she returns to action on Saturday night against another former title challenger in Kowalkiewicz.
According to the official UFC rankings, Gadelha and Kowalkiewicz are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world respectively so the winner will certainly take a major step forward towards re-entering the championship conversation.
Gadelha has a lot of respect for Kowalkiewicz but she’s also brutally honest when assessing her opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, which she believes are plenty.
“I’m not really impressed by Karolina’s game,” Gadelha said. “She’s a great fighter, she’s a tough fighter but even in her feet, she gives a lot of space to somebody like me. I’m a pressure fighter. I give a lot of pressure. She fights with her hands down. Her feet are all over the place.
“She does things that will give me the opportunity to beat her on the feet or on the ground.”
The best possible outcome for Gadelha is not only a win over Kowalkiewicz but a convincing enough victory that she will once again prove that she’s the only strawweight on the roster capable of dethroning Jedrzejczyk in the future.
Gadelha isn’t jumping ahead of herself or even asking for a title shot after a win on Saturday night at UFC 212. She just wants to send a reminder with her performance that everybody at 115-pounds knows the road to the championship will ultimately go through her.
“That’s my only goal right now,” Gadelha explained. “To show everybody who is the No. 1 and who is the one to face the champion again.”
UFC 212 takes place on Saturday night from Brazil with the prelims airing live on FS1 starting at 8 p.m. ET.
5 burning questions headed into UFC 212: Aldo vs. Holloway
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images | Zuffa LLC