‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas Nearly Threw in the Towel Before Making Her Move to Flyweight: ‘I Definitely Thought I Was Done’

Namajunas was on the cusp of retiring before an opportunity to change weight classes gave her a renewed sense of purpose

Rose Namajunas
Courtesy of @ESPNMMA on Twitter

‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas was ready to throw in the towel following her lackluster performance against Carla Esparza last year.

After coming off back-to-back wins over Zhang Weili to both capture and defend the UFC strawweight world championship, Namajunas had her sights set on evening the odds with former foe Carla Esparza, who had defeated her eight years prior in the TUF 20 tournament final. 

Despite Dana White’s best efforts to keep Esparza out of the title picture, the UFC President finally relented and finally booked the rematch for UFC 274. What transpired quickly became dubbed the worst title fight in the promotion’s 30-year history. 

For 25 minutes, neither woman offered up much offense before eventually limping to a very unenthusiastic split decision. Esparza was favored on two of the three scorecards and became a two-time strawweight champion whilst Namajunas retreated into the shadows and has remained mostly quiet. That is until her appearance on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani on Monday. During her time on the program, Namajunas revealed that after failing to dispatch Esparza for the second time, she felt like it was time to hang up her gloves for good. 

“I definitely thought I was done for a good amount of time,” Namajunas said. “I mean, there’s definitely a number of things. Like the way that I felt going into the locker room, I just didn’t feel aggressive and I just felt like I don’t really want to hurt anybody. So, I was just like yeah, I guess I’m done. 

“I mean, there was definitely a bunch of other factors that went into it, but it’s obviously not the first time I’ve questioned whether I should keep doing this or not,” she continued. “I had already achieved becoming a champion. Defending a championship belt and then losing it. And even at that point when I lost it and when I was on my way to… When I decided to rematch [Jessica] Andrade, and I wanted her because I wanted to fix that mistake. 

“To me, I never thought in my mind that I’m gonna make it to the belt again. That was the last thing on my mind, but as a martial artist, I needed to have that one fight and then it was just kind of like, I might as well keep going. And then I ended up becoming the champ again.”

Rose Namajunas Knew It Was Time For a Change

Once she decided it wasn’t quite yet time to retire, Rose Namajunas began plotting her return to the Octagon. Instead of heading back into the familiar territory of the strawweight division, the Milwaukee native will make the move to flyweight where a plethora of fresh matchups and opportunities await. Speaking about her decision to move from 115 to 125, Namajunas said:

“[Zhang] Weili’s the champ now, so then what? I fight her a third time? You know what I mean? Like, I dunno. It’s not very interesting,” Namajunas said. “I’ve already fought [Jessica] Andrade and this and that… Yeah, Weili’s the champ, so it’s like, ‘Okay, I could just beat her again’, but I don’t know, to me it’s just more than that.”

On September 2, she will make her debut at 125 for a clash with Manon Fiorot, the No. 2 ranked contender in the division.

“I could keep doing the same old thing. But man, as soon as it gets kinda redundant… Once this game gets redundant, I could get bored really quick and that’s not good for nobody, so I need to keep it fresh and interesting,” she added.

Namajunas goes into the bout with a 9-4 record inside the Octagon and two separate UFC strawweight title reigns to her credit, while her opponent is looking to secure her first shot at championship gold. Fiorot is 5-0 inside the Octagon, with victories over Victoria Leonardo, Tabitha Ricci, Mayra Bueno Silva, Jennifer Maia, and Katlyn Chookagian. 

A win over Namajunas would undoubtedly put ‘The Beast’ in pole position for a title opportunity at 125. 

Published on July 31, 2023 at 9:31 pm
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