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Lighter Jessica Andrade presents challenge for UFC champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Updated May 11, 2017 - 10:01 pm

DALLAS — It’s possible Jessica Andrade will be the toughest opponent that UFC women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk has faced during her impressive title reign.

Jedrzejczyk isn’t necessarily buying the premise just yet.

“I hear that before every fight,” said Jedrzejczyk, who will defend her belt in the co-main event of UFC 211 on Saturday at American Airlines Arena. “Everyone is coming for me and my belt, and every one of them is my toughest opponent yet. It’s just talk.”

The clash is one of two title bouts on the pay-per-view card. Stipe Miocic defends the heavyweight belt against former champ Junior dos Santos in the main event.

The challenges do keep Jedrzejczyk focused.

“That’s why I must stay humble,” she said. “I must work very hard every day to not let anyone (take the belt from me). I know the weaknesses of all my opponents, but they might show up different to fight with me, so I stay focused on what I can do to get myself better every day. I’m enjoying that process, and I will prove once again there’s only one UFC strawweight champion and it’s me.”

Jedrzejczyk, 29, burst onto the scene with two wins in 2014 that had UFC president Dana White singing her praises as a future star. She won the belt in her third fight and has proven White prophetic with four successful title defenses.

Each challenge has served to strengthen Jedrzejczyk’s grip on the belt in the organization’s lightest weight class.

But Andrade should present a unique challenge. The Brazilian has been on a tear since making a big drop from the 135-pound bantamweight division, where she went 4-3.

Andrade, 25, has found her home, easily dispatching of three straight opponents to get the title shot.

“It went way, way better than we expected,” Andrade said of the move to strawweight. “We figured out that I kept the power and I was moving way better and quicker than I was at 135. I said, ‘OK, maybe this is where I should have been all along.’ ”

Andrade’s dominance at 115 pounds is a major factor in the odds. Jedrzejczyk is a minus-160 favorite, by far the narrowest odds during her reign.

Jedrzejczyk said she watched Andrade’s last fight, something she doesn’t always do in preparing for an opponent, but wasn’t blown away by the performance. The champion acknowledged Andrade is much better suited to strawweight than bantamweight.

Jedrzejczyk is more concerned with herself. She thinks if she continues to train as if she’s chasing the belt instead of defending it, she can achieve her goals.

“My dreams still motivate me,” she said. “I want to become a champion in two different divisions, and I want to retire as an undefeated champion. I know it’s not going to be easy. It’s a big goal and a big thing to me, but I’ll do everything I can to make it happen. I’m enjoying this process. I feel like I’m still learning new things every day and evolving as a fighter in every camp.”

That’s a frightening thought for the rest of the division, but Andrade insists she’s ready for the challenge. She said she was offered a title bout before her last fight, but decided she needed one more tuneup.

“I needed to do those fights, not just for my confidence but to let everyone know I’m the real deal,” Andrade said. “Now I have a chance to prove to everyone that I am the best person in the world at what I do in my division. It’s something almost nobody in life gets a chance to do, and I have that on Saturday.

“I’m not the best yet, because Joanna has the belt. But we’ll see on Saturday. I might get the proof.”

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.

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