For most fighters, the later years of their career are marked by two distinct statements, or some variation of them: ‘I feel like I’m better now than I ever have been’ & ‘I’ll know when it’s time to walk away.’ Even as losses pile up, fighters hang their hat on successful training sessions, injury recovery, and the general comfort that comes with having done something for the majority of their adult lives.
It’s rare, then, to ever hear a fighter say they aren’t as good as they used to be, and rarer still for them to say it before their career is over. For former strawweight title contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz, however, it seems she’s comfortable with the frame of mind that her best years may be behind her.
In a message to fans on Instagram the 33-year-old training out of Shark Top Team Lodz gave a blunt assessment of just where she sees herself in her career right now.
“Congratulations Alexa Grasso, you’ve done a great job,” Kowalkiewicz wrote in Polish (translation acquired by MMA Fighting’s Damon Martin). “Thank you very much everybody for the kind words and support. Don’t worry about me, it could’ve been better, but I’m okay. Bruises on my face are going to heal up soon.”
“I poured my whole heart into my last fight, but something was missing. I’m not the same fighter I used to be. The sad truth is that my best years are already behind me, I’m past prime. There are some young, talented girls, who I need to give up my space to. But don’t worry, I will come back and give you some good fights. Maybe not at the very top, but I will provide you a lot of emotions, just give me a little bit of time. Thank you very much once again!”
Kowalkiewicz entered the UFC out of Poland’s KSW organization, with a 7-0 unbeaten record back in 2015. Three straight wins, over Randa Markos, Heather Jo Clark, and Rose Namajunas got her a shot at then-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Kowalkiewicz put together a spirited performance in a decision loss for Jedrzejzyk’s 4th title defense, a quick submission loss to Claudia Gadelha followed soon after.
Wins over Jodie Esquibel and Felice Herrig in 2017 and 2018 suggested that Kowalkiewicz was turning things around. However, in the last 9 months she’s dropped three straight fights—including a brutal knockout loss to current champion Jessica Andrade.
At just 12-5 in her career – and seven years as a pro – there’s still every chance that Karolina Kowalkiewicz could see a return to her title contending form. But, for the moment, she seems at ease with the notion that time is fleeting, especially in the world of competitive athletics.