In the world of combat sports, honesty isn’t always the prevailing approach, but Rose Namajunas is clearly an exception. The former strawweight champion doesn’t mince words when discussing her recent bout, and let’s just say she’s not framing it as the fight of the century.
It’s been over a year and three months since Rose Namajunas’ second reign as strawweight champion met a rather unceremonious end at UFC 274. Dubbed “Thug Rose,” she had a chance to settle a score with Carla Esparza, the woman who defeated her back in 2014. However, after an excruciatingly long 25-minute match that lacked any defining moments, Esparza managed to squeeze out a split decision victory, once again seizing the belt from Namajunas.
The tussle between Namajunas and Esparza received anything but applause. The fight was a snoozer, and fans, fellow fighters, and even the commentary team couldn’t resist adding their voice to the collective groan.
Reflecting on that lackluster showdown, one might wonder whether Namajunas thought the criticism was a bit harsh. But, no, she’s not shying away from the truth.
In a candid moment during a media event leading up to UFC Paris, Namajunas candidly admitted, “No, that was definitely one of the most boring fights ever.” She continued, “I don’t know, I guess being the fighter, it feels a little different when somebody—because it’s not just a sport for me, it’s an art, so when somebody critiques your art you get a little emotional about it.”
Namajunas recognizes the validity of the criticism, acknowledging the stark lack of action in the bout. However, she didn’t shy away from sharing her emotional connection to the sport and the impact of critiques on her work. She even touched upon the unspoken belief that challengers must take the title from the incumbent, a notion she felt weighed upon her shoulders.
Before that rather forgettable display, Namajunas had built an impressive portfolio of thrilling performances, including memorable victories over the likes of Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. She had been part of captivating battles that left fans at the edge of their seats. So, understandably, the negative reception to that rare off-night initially struck a nerve.
She admitted, “It did at first, but I kind of deserved it. I was a little bitter.” But Namajunas exhibited growth and resilience, stepping out of the emotional shadows and realizing that her personal struggles weren’t for public consumption. “They’re just here to be inspired or to be entertained or to learn something, and that’s my job as a martial artist—to go out there and do my job.”
Namajunas is gearing up for a fresh start in a new weight division. She’s making the leap to 125 pounds to face the formidable Manon Fiorot. A victory here could catapult her up the flyweight rankings, possibly securing her position as the number one contender for the winner of the upcoming title clash between Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko.
However, she’s not getting ahead of herself. In response to inquiries about her potential title shot after UFC Paris, she playfully stated, “No expectations. I just hope and pray that God uses me in a way that I can glorify Him and hopefully I put on a good performance and that I can inspire people and hopefully everything else just kind of takes care of itself.”
Namajunas’ humility and focus on the present moment shine through. She’s ready to embrace the challenge ahead without burdening herself with distant dreams. It’s this down-to-earth approach, mixed with her exceptional skills, that has endeared her to fans and fellow geeks of the fighting world. So, let’s tune in and see what Rose Namajunas does next, knowing that even a champion can have an off-day, and that’s okay.