Ahead of the inaugural UFC on ESPN+ event, which takes place next Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Barclays Centre, Joanne Calderwood is fully aware of what an explosive performance against former KSW champion Ariane Lipski could do for her career.
Having moved to Las Vegas almost a year ago, the Scottish flyweight finally appears to have found the perfect home. She has made some big changes and believes she could now be just one win away from a UFC title shot.
After initially moving from the U.K. to the Tri-Star gym in Montreal, Calderwood (12-3) packed her bags and relocated again, settling at Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas. Having spent years focusing primarily on jiu-jitsu and wrestling, Calderwood switched to a more rounded approach and started to work with female training partners for the first time.
The results? She senses that her game is all coming together.
"I wanted to make some changes," Calderwood told ESPN. "I've always had to train with other guys throughout my career. They would be smaller and closer to my weight but I thought they were a lot stronger and better than me so that messed with my confidence a lot.
"At least now, with girls who move differently, you can't have that excuse, and I knew Syndicate had a good few girls there. I was also looking for an MMA coach and not three or four different coaches. I wanted to have one person telling me exactly everything I had to do in all areas."
In addition to her work at Syndicate MMA, Calderwood is also making daily use of the UFC Performance Institute, which was the primary force that motivated her to head out to the fight capital of the world. The move appears to be paying off, especially when it comes to her nutrition and weight management.
Calderwood's opponent, Lipski, might be making her UFC debut, but "The Violence Queen" is coming in hot. Lipski, who vacated her KSW title to join the UFC and has won the majority of her fights via stoppage, will be oozing with confidence. The soft-spoken Scot is aware of the danger, but she has vicious intentions in mind.
"She's got a lot of experience and she's been fighting for a long time. Her entire career, she's been on big shows," Calderwood said. "I just feel like she's going to have pressure, I don't know what it's like at KSW, but with the media at the UFC, it is a completely different show.
"I don't care what anyone says, when you're fighting, you get jitters, it doesn't matter where it is, even I will on the night. She's going to have that to deal with as well. I've watched a lot of her fights and I've visualized the victory by putting my hand right through her face."
The UFC flyweight division finally has some direction, with newly crowned champion Valentina Shevchenko a target for the rest of the weight class. Beneath her, however, Calderwood says it's wide open.
A win over Lipski would mark back-to-back victories since Calderwood joined the UFC's 125-pound weight class. If she has a dominant performance, would that be enough for her to jump ahead of Jessica Eye, who herself is riding a three-fight win streak, and to warrant the next shot at Shevchenko? Calderwood thinks so.
"That's just how the UFC works," she said. "You can go out there and get a first-round stoppage. Exciting performances, that's what they want to see and obviously so do the fans.
"If I can go in there and make a statement, there's no reason why I can't jump Jessica Eye, or maybe even be looking to fight her next."