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Images of Karolina Kowalkiewicz from local photoshoot in Poland.

I will come back and prove the world that it has not heard the last of me - interview with Karolina Kowalkiewicz

Feb 172020

She has some difficult fights behind her, but on February 23rd, after almost half a year, Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-5-0) will come back to the octagon and face Yan Xiaonan (11-1-0) in New Zealand. We have talked with her about her private life, MMA career and plans for the future. 

How did your journey with MMA start? How did your family react to your decision?


I'll talk you through it shortly. Since I was a child I have been dreaming about training martial arts, but I wanted to do it just for me. I wanted to learn how to fight, how to defend myself. I was fascinated by Xena the Warrior Princess, Sonya Blade and Lara Croft. Those were strong women and since I was a child I have wanted to be just like them. We were living in the outskirts of Lodz and there was no option to train. My parents were affraid to let me out anywhere by myself. They were working late, so they could not take me to classes. But when I went to high school I could ride around by myself and I found Krav Maga trainings. It was love from first sight. I wanted to learn that. It was a combination of all martial arts. It was a typical self defense, stand-up fight, ground work, knife and weapon defense. I have liked it from the very beginning and after a few years I have become a Krav Maga trainer. I think I was the youngest one in the world, I was around 19 years old. I did not want to stop at Krav Maga, but I wanted to be a better trainer, learn other martial arts.
I started to read about it and when I was 23 I went to a MMA training. Again, it was love at first sight. I was crazy about it, but at the beginning I did not want to fight. I did not consider it. I wanted to train only for myself. I started with recreational trainings. I have trained 2 times a week as an addition to the Krav Maga trainings. One of the trainers saw potential in me and persuaded me to take part in a tournament. I did not want to, but I finally agreed. I try to keep my word, but then it turned out that there is no Polish MMA league in Poland. So I started in Muay Thai. I had some fights in the amateur division and I fell in love with it. From the first fight I have known that I liked it and I have even won the amateur champion title.

Then there were other amateur MMA women fights. I had 3 or 4 and my family and friends told me to find a real job, because I was already 26. They told me that I should stop training, finish college, find a job and so on.

I started thinking and I decided that I will give myself one year. If I achieve something than I stay and continue to fight. If not I find another way for my life. And after one year I won the KSW championship. So my efforts and risk payed off. Then there were next fights, contract with UFC and my dreams came true.

Who would you be today if not for MMA? I'm thinking if this is accurate as you have been dreaming about fighthing since the beginning. 


If not for MMA I would still be a Krav Maga trainer. I also graduated from stuntman school and I like extreme sports. But when I started fighthing I stopped all other things. I would definitely go in that direction. I would not work in an office.

What do you think about your career currently? 


My dream came true. I do what I love. I know not everything goes exactly as planned and I had some downs recently and lost some fights, but if I could turn back time I would not change anything. I believe that nothing happens without a reason and I know that it has a bigger meaning. Sometimes I have wondered why does it happen and then I turned out on top, so great. I would not change anything in my life. I'm happy that it is what it is.

Which was your easiest and your most difficult fight? 


My easiest fight was with Marta Chojnowska for the KSW belt. I trained very hard and I was expecting 3 rounds of a difficult fight, but I won in over a minute. It was a huge surprise.
The most difficult fight was with Jessica Andreas. Unfortunately it also finished quickly. I thought that I was in top form, but Jessica KO'd me in the first round. That was a really bad time for me.

How, in your opinion, does the Polish MMA scene look compared to other countries? 


MMA in Poland has developed a lot and the level is very, very high. Polish fighters are comparable to the world elite. Not all of them, of course there are exceptions. I am talking about the real fighters, true athletes. Polish MMA is developing fast on a high class level and it makes me happy.

What do you like the most in MMA? 


It's something that makes me happy, what I like to do. You come to the training, you think you cannot give anything more, that this is maximum and then you break your boundaries and raise the bar. I think that's the best. I heard somewhere that we know ourselves as much as other test us and MMA tests a fighter on each step and proves that he can do more.

What was your most difficult time in career? How did you handle it? 


I think that this is the hardest moment. I have lost 3 fights in a row. These are lost fights, not failures. I hate that word in sports. It would be a failure if I would not do this, if I could not fulfill my dreams, if I could not do what I love. For me these are lost fights. Not a pleasant, but valuable experience, which teaches me something and makes me think about what to do in the future. I give myself time and I know that I will come back and prove the world that it has not heard the last of me.

Who is Karolina Kowalkiewicz every day? 


I am very calm, over sensitive. I cry when I see e.g. a butterfly, which sits on a flower, at commercials, movies. I look at dogs, cats and other animals photos on the internet and it moves me. I like to take care of the house. I like it when it's clean. Apart from MMA I'm a housewife. It's me in the octagon and every day. I'm a Libra and I heard, that they have a dualistic nature. I think I agree with that, because I have two faces.

How do you prepare to a fight? 


Preparation always have a similar scheme, but we prepare differently for each situation, change elements for a specific fighter. Minimum it takes around 8 weeks. A full preparation period is 12 weeks. We train 2 times a day from Monday to Saturday. There is one training on Saturday and Wednesday, because I regenerate in the evening. I go to a sauna, for a massage or just take a long bath. Sparings are 2 times a week. We do sparings with the whole team, trainers and their sparing partners. 2 times a week I focus on strenght workout, cardio. Then there are technical trainings with trainers in a group and individually, e.g. shields, wrestling, ground work. It's a very intense time. The further the battle the loads are bigger. Two weeks before the battle we decrease them, the trainings are shorter, we focus less on strength and more on speed. All for the body to regenerate and to be in top form in the fight day.

What do you do to relax between the trainings and fights? 


There is not a lot of time between the trainings. I come back home, eat dinner, take a nap, watch a movie or a TV series and get back for another training. Between the fights I try to travel. I love the Polish mountains and Zakopane. After a fight I alwyas try to go there at least for a couple of days. In the summer, when I have more time I try to go away, turn off my phone and relax, reset.

You said that you have still two years of fighting ahead of you. What would you like to achieve by that time? Do you have plans after UFC?


My biggest dream is to fight until I am 37. I started when I was 27 and I assumed I would fight for 10 years. That is my biggest dream. I would like to have my last fight at 37 and then retire. My biggest goal is to get back to a winning streak, start winning, have good fights and come back to Top 3.

What is you biggest achievement professionally and personally? 


I think my biggest one was the fight with Joanna Jędrzejczyk for the UFC belt at Madison Square Garden. I will not forget that experience, because it was amazing. That's my biggest achievement so far, but I know more will come. My private ones are close to my professional ones, because for me the biggest achievement is doing what I love. That I have a job, which I love and fight MMA. I have not worked one day, because, when doing what you love you do not work, you fulfill your dreams.

Who is your biggest idol? 


She is not related to martial arts. It's Martyna Wojciechowska. I love this woman, admire her. She is amazing and I think I am her biggest fan.

Which fight made the greatest impression on you? 


Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm. Ronda was the favourite, but Holly beat her, KO'd her. Also the fight for the championship in my weight class between Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andreas. Rose was in great form and controlled the first round and the whole fight, but Jessica brutally KO'd her, threw her on the ground, won the fight and the championship. This fight made a great impression on me and showed how unpredictable MMA is.

What is your favourite song or band? 


I have a lot of favourite songs, but I always walk out to Iggy Pop's 'Passenger'.

Is there something nobody knows about you? 


Before the fight I like to watch a movie with the Polish cavalry. It motivates me. Another thing is that I always wanted to have a sister. I could not accept that I have a brother, so I dressed him up and called him Kasia. He liked it.