Rose Namajunas will fight for the women’s 115-pound title for the second time when she steps in the Octagon on Saturday at UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden in New York. She’ll attempt to dethrone champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk who will tie Ronda Rousey‘s record for most title defenses for a female UFC fighter with a win.
Namajunas appeared on The Ultimate Fighter 20: A Champion Will Be Crowned in 2014 along with 15 other strawweight competitors with the goal of being crowned the inaugural UFC women’s strawweight champion. She advanced to the finals after winning all of her bouts on the show by submission. She faced former Invicta FC strawweight champ Carla Esparza at the season finale, but was submitted via rear-naked choke in the third round of the title fight.
Despite the loss, Namajunas gained title fight experience under the brightest lights in mixed martial arts. She won four of her next five fights with the lone loss being via split decision. Namajunas is not the same fighter that she was when she fought for UFC gold in 2014.
“I carry all of my experiences with me whether they be a win or a loss. But yeah, losing the first title fight definitely has brought my team together closer than ever and has made everybody kind of just build me from the ground up. I was definitely riding on a lot of talent and a lot of just improvisational skills, but since then we’ve built a good base of boxing movement and then added in my kicks there and my jiu-jitsu is what totally changed from being a bottom fighter to a top fighter. But now I’m totally complete everywhere; I’m the total package,” she said during the UFC 217 media conference call.
“I’ve just gotten better overall as a person and as a fighter. Every fighter is different. Every fight is different. Every training camp. I’ve trained my entire life for this moment and at the end of the day, it’s just a moment in my life. So really what I’ve learned from that fight is I’ve just gotten better mentally.”
Jedrzejczyk took what many thought was a bit of a cheap shot at Namajunas‘ past issues when it comes to her mentality, saying to her, “You are mentally unstable and you are broken already and I will break you in the fight.”
Namajunas has, admittedly, dealt with some difficult issues in the past. She even has a dog, Mishka, that serves as her emotional support animal, which helps keep Namajunas calm and centered. Mishka frequently travels with Namajunas.
That said, Namajunas claims that she has come a long way on not only the mental side of her fight game, but also in her daily life.
“I’ve overcome some demons in my past and every day I wake up, I’m a (expletive) champion. So that’s just my mindset all the time and this fight could be a great PSA announcement for mental health awareness. I think I’m a champion for that and just overcoming a lot of demons in my past. And I’m so much stronger from it and I’m going to continue to be stronger.”
Jedrzejczyk is undefeated (14-0) and has looked unstoppable. Namajunas plans to hand the champion her first career loss by being herself inside the Octagon on Saturday.
“Just being myself. It’s pretty difficult to deal with,” she said when asked what she brought to the table. “When I’m totally in tune with myself and I’m flowing, it don’t matter who I’m fighting. This is a problem for anybody.”
Meet Rose Namajunas’ Best Friend, Mishka
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