Joanne Calderwood was something of a surprise entry when it was learned she was attached to the UFC Vegas 5 card.
Calderwood (14-4) appeared to have the next title shot locked up, against women’s flyweight juggernaut Valentina Shevchenko. But when Jennifer Maia’s original opponent this weekend, Viviane Araujo, tested positive for COVID-19, it was “JoJo” stepping up. Risking a title shot in the process, most likely.
So what was the appeal to the Maia fight? Frankly, that it was a fight. Shevchenko has been recovering from injury. Calderwood has been waiting in the wings for a while now.
“You could say the appeal was that we had just said to the UFC ‘Okay, we’re we’re taking a fight before the title fight’ and then the next day, it just happened that Jennifer’s opponent pulled out,” Calderwood told Cageside Press during the UFC Vegas 5 media day. “So they came back with that.”
In other words, everything just sort of fell into place for a fighter who wants to stay busy. That goes back to Calderwood’s kickboxing days, frankly.
“I got into MMA because I was at the point of my Muay Thai career where I couldn’t get fights and for me, I’ve always just wanted to stay active,” she explained. “I think that’s the same for every fighter. As soon as we’re done on a Saturday night or whenever we fight, we’re always looking to the next one.”
There are a lot of emotions that fighters go through during a training camp, Calderwood admitted, but when all is said and done, “when’s the next one?” is always the question. “And for me, we were training for Valentina and then it got put back, and then it got put back again, and I guess the frustration in me, I was just not getting anything out of— I was enjoying training. I was getting better and stuff, but I was itching to get back at letting that killer instinct out of me. So I feel like I just wanted to get in there and fight, I had this kind of burning energy that I wanted to get out.”
Aside from that pent up energy lighting a fire inside her, there were the “crazy times that are going on right now” — something that compelled her to fight as well. Especially since, when fighting is your job, there are only so many chances to actually do it, factoring in opportunities, scheduling, and of course injuries.
Still, it’s a big risk, giving up a title shot. One that has backfired in the past for other fighters. Nearly a decade ago now, Hatsu Hioki infamously declined a shot against featherweight champ Jose Aldo. He’d never get another.
“It’s sad to say, you just never know. That’s out of my control, and I know I took a risk taking this fight, but for me it made sense,” Calderwood said about the dangers of her decision to fight on. “I know I’ll be ready. Win on Saturday, then I’ll be ready, if [Shevchenko]’s coming back in November, I’ll definitely wait for that fight for sure, if the UFC will let me have it.”
Watch the full UFC Vegas 5 media day press scrum with Joanne Calderwood above.