When Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk went to war in their instant classic title fight at UFC 248, Michelle Waterson was a more interested spectator than most.

Waterson’s hope of challenging for the UFC strawweight title were put on hold after her loss to Jedrzejczyk at UFC on ESPN+ 19 in Tampa, Fla., this past October, and she admitted that she had to take some time to get over the pain and disappointment of that loss.

“It took me a while to even build up the courage to rewatch the fight, just because there was so much riding on that fight and the way that it happened – there was a huge let-down for me,” Waterson told MMA Junkie. “I think when you lose, you don’t give yourself enough credit. You only see the loss. It’s not like a scoreboard when it’s like, ‘OK, 80-100, you almost won.’ I know that we went five rounds and they gave those scores, but there’s so much that happens within a fight that the average fan and even the judges (and) commentators don’t see.”

After the pain of defeat had subsided and she was able to watch the fight with a clearer head, Waterson (17-7 MMA, 5-3 UFC) came away feeling more positive about her performance and her standing in the UFC’s women’s strawweight division.

“When I watched the fight back with my husband, I was able to walk away with my head held high,” she said. “I think that there are definitely things I could improve on – there are always things that I could improve on. But after watching the fight, I do know that I belong at the top of the division and I’m literally inches away from that belt. When you’re competing against girls at that high of a caliber, it is just an inch to the left or an inch to the right that will determine whether you win or lose.”

Motivated by that morale boost, Waterson settled down to watch the title fight between Weili and Jedrzejczyk, and said that it was a fight that not only did both fighters great credit, but also served as a statement of excellence for the strawweight division as a whole.

“Seeing that war with Joanna and Weili, honestly, I’m incredibly proud of the strawweight division,” she said. “Every time the strawweights fight, we bring it and we put on a show. Regardless of which strawweight you fight, we definitely bring the heat.

“When my husband and I watched the fight between Weili and Joanna, we were so entertained. I was on the edge of my chair the whole time. I felt like I was in the octagon with them. It was so entertaining. In my opinion, none of those ladies walked away with a loss that night. They both showed the heart of a champion.

“I did edge it to Joanna before they called the scorecards. I can understand why they would give it to Weili because of the amount of damage Joanna took toward the end of the fight. So like I said, going away from that fight I think that both of the ladies win.”