Agnieszka Niedzwiedz (7-0) had been due to fight Pannie Kianzad at Cage Warriors 74 in November 2014, but a stomach injury led to her withdrawal and denied her the opportunity of becoming the Cage Warriors women’s bantamweight champion. And for Niedzwiedz it proved to be a blessing, as she found out that she was pregnant just two months later.
“I didn’t know that I was pregnant. If it had not been for the injury, I would have gone into the fight pregnant. I am really happy that the injury happened because you never know what is going to happen in the cage. I am happy that the fight didn’t happen and that my son is healthy.”
Niedzwiedz put her fighting career on hold, and became a mother last summer. Although she tries to keep her two roles separate, there are times when the two meet, when mother is also a fighter. She often brings her son to training, where he rolls around on the mats, and plays with Karolina Kowalkiewicz’s dog (when she travels to the city where Kowalkiewicz lives). The arrival of her son gave her extra motivation to reach the top of the sport. And she was back training just 8 weeks after giving birth.
“I’m more motivated because I know I have to look after my son and think of his future. He comes to training when I don’t have anyone to look after him. He is really happy playing about on the mats. I’m happy if he is happy.
“I waited two months after I gave birth to start training again. It was really hard because I had to cut weight and get back into shape. I think I’m in better shape now than I was before I was pregnant.”
“I am not worried about ring rust,” the 21-year-old responded when asked whether her time away from the cage had any negative impact. “I don’t feel any pressure. This break helped me a lot. I will be back stronger than ever. I can’t wait to fight again.”
She recently announced that her next fight would be with Invicta, the all-female MMA promotion based in the U.S., and she is hoping to debut on an Invicta card this summer. She signed a multiple-fight contract, and is aiming for at least 2 fights this year.
Her plan is to fight for the promotion’s flyweight title, but is happy to accept whatever fight Julie Kedzie (the Invicta matchmaker) offers her team. The current champion, Barb Honchak, is not in a position to defend her title, which meant that Invicta had to create an interim title earlier this year. Jennifer Maia won the interim title at Invicta 16 in March. ‘Kuma’ hasn’t been following the division closely, but is adamant that she will defeat whoever holds the title.
“I can fight anyone Invicta will pick, but if I can pick, I want a title fight. I’ll beat all of them to get title fight if that is not possible. So far, being the best at flyweight means being an Invicta champion. That’s my goal for now. I am not thinking about UFC as they do not have my division. I am ready to fight on the next Invicta event… I do not mind who I’ll face, but I want tough opponents. I am happy to take it step by step.”
Pannie Kianzad is also signed to Invicta, but the chances of that fight happening appear to be slim. Niedzwiedz is dropping down to flyweight and sees her long term future as a 125lber, and unless Kianzad drops down, that isn’t a fight that the 21-year-old is chasing.
“I changed my weight class, so it would be impossible [to face Kianzad] right now. If she dropped down, or if I went back up, sure, then I would be open for that fight.
“I am too small for bantamweight, so I need to move down to 125. I will do the cut in the summer. I think the cut will be easy, but we will see, since it will be the first time I would have cut so much. I don’t have the time to do a practice cut. I have a couple of months to focus on a fight. I would have to add a lot of muscle to my body if I was to stay at bantamweight, because there is a big size difference. We decided it would be better for me to cut weight.”
She has spent time training with UFC fighter Karolina Kowalkiewicz, ranked number seven in the UFC women’s strawweight contender rankings, who defeated Heather Clark at UFC Rotterdam. Niedzwiedz was confident that her friend would secure a victory and the Polish fighter predicted that it would be a routine victory for Kowalkiewicz. She has been using those sparring sessions to assess her own skill level.
“We are good friends, and we train together [from time to time]. I was sparring with her ahead of her fight in Rotterdam, and I think she can get a fight against Joanna [Jerdzrejczyk] soon.
“Training with her has motivated me. The sparring lets me know where I am. I think that I am UFC level.”
‘Kuma’ has nothing but respect for her new promotion, but does hope to fight in the UFC in the future. Invicta stream their live cards on UFC Fight Pass, and they’ve sent fighters to the UFC in the past. This contract puts her in front of Joe Silva and Sean Shelby (the UFC matchmakers).
Her long-term goal is to become the UFC women’s flyweight champion. The division doesn’t exist yet in the UFC, but Dana White has said that the Las Vegas-based promotion will introduce it in the future.
She has spent the last year out of the cage, but that doesn’t worry the 21-year-old. She had a 7-0 record before her pregnancy kept her from fighting, and doesn’t feel that she has to hurry anything because time is on her side.
“I have a lot of time in my career, so I won’t rush anything. I would like to be in the UFC one day. I am going to fight and just wait until they make this new division. This move [to Invicta] is good for me. I took time off because I was pregnant, and I am entering a new division. Invicta is a good place to fight, and they have some very good fighters.”
“I think I can be an Invicta champion. And I think I have everything to be a UFC champion one day.”
Joanna Jedrzejczyk, fighting out of Olsztyn, Poland, is the current UFC women’s strawweight champion, although she has recently expressed an interest in moving up to 125lbs when the UFC introduces a flyweight division for women. ‘Kuma’ has a lot of respect and admiration for her fellow countrywoman, but would have no problem facing her in the future.
“She is a great fighter. I think she is doing a great job promoting Polish MMA and women’s MMA. And she has opened the door for us Polish women in the UFC.
“I would love to fight her for the [flyweight] belt. I can’t wait for the UFC to bring the flyweight division. It will be really interesting because women from both divisions will want to come to the flyweight division.”
She has never appeared on a KSW card, one of the biggest promotions in Europe, and the biggest promotion in Poland, which has had an impact on her popularity. And ‘Kuma’ is hoping that signing with Invicta will help her raise her profile.
“I’m not that popular in Poland because I don’t think people know about me. The KSW fighters are really popular, but the rest of us aren’t. I’m more popular in England. The Polish MMA fans haven’t been able to see me. I think that this contract will give me more attention in Poland, and then hopefully they’ll follow me more.
“I like to fight on Fight Pass as it should get me more attention worldwide. I hope that my fans in Poland and the UK will watch my debut.”