It’s official: Felice Herrig has the big name opponent she’s been looking for.
Former strawweight title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz will face the surging Felice Herrig at UFC 223 in April. Herrig announced the bout via her Instagram page, with the UFC later confirming the match-up. It becomes one of three fights added to the official fight card to date for the April show. In the UFC 223 main event, featherweight champion Max Holloway defends his title for the second time, this time against former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar. More important for Herrig and Kowalkiewicz, however, is the co-main event. In that, new champ Rose Namajunas will face the woman she defeated for the 115lb title, Jonna Jedrzejczyk.
For Felice Herrig (14-6), the ninth ranked strawweight in the UFC, it’s a chance to put herself in title shot range. The popular fighter has won four straight, most recently against Cortney Casey at UFC 218 in December. Early last year, however, Herrig felt the UFC was ignoring her talents. Speaking to MMA Junkie, she said that “I’ve seen how hard I’ve worked to get here, and it just doesn’t matter because I just feel I’m not pretty enough, and I’m not getting any younger.” It was a surprising comment if only because Herrig is objectively anything but unattractive, though she certainly had a point about the UFC not pushing her. Despite the popularity of the fighter on social media and her willingness to promote herself, the UFC perpetually overlooked her over the past few years.
Things appear to be looking up, however. Saying she’s “super pumped” to be facing a top ten opponent that she asked for, Herrig said of the upcoming fight that “I’m excited to show people what I can do against a step up in competition. I’m well aware that I will be the underdog in this fight which is ok with me. I’ve been the underdog most of my career and I thrive off of it. Bring it on. I’ll be ready.”
Karolina Kowalkiewicz (11–2), meanwhile, got things back on track in October, when she defeated Jodie Esquibel at UFC Gdansk in her native Poland. Prior to that, Kowalkiewicz had dropped two straight, marking the first losses of her career. Those came in her title fight against Jedrzejczyk, and to top contender Claudia Gadelha.
UFC 223 takes place April 7 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.