‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas Reveals Mindset Following Lackluster Loss to Carla Esparza, What Fans Can Expect at UFC Paris

The two-time UFC strawweight champ shared insight into the aftermath of her title loss to Carla Esparza

Rose Namajunas
Courtesy of @UFCNews on Twitter

‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas will make her first appearance inside the Octagon more than a year removed from her uninspiring performance against former two-time strawweight world champion, Carla Esparza.

Namajunas has climbed to the top of the mountain on two separate occasions herself, but the Milwaukee native had a falling out with fans after she competed in what many considered to be the worst title fight in UFC history. Since then, ‘Thug’ has been sitting quietly on the sidelines plotting her next move. For a while, that appeared to be an early retirement. 

In an interview with New York Post Sports, Namajunas addressed her mindset going into her highly anticipated return to the Octagon this Saturday at UFC Paris after being lambasted by the MMA community for her disappointing defeat to Esparza at UFC 274.

“It definitely put a different perspective on me as a… Like my approach toward my career,” Namajunas said of the controversial clash. “I kind of took for granted that I’m just a naturally entertaining fighter. I have a lot of natural star power so it was the first time that I had a boring fight. It wasn’t a surprise in hindsight just because of all the things…

“The recipe for that to happen. And so I just had to learn to, one, take responsibility. Two, to forgive myself for it. Three, I don’t know. There was just a lot of growth. I guess I also gave myself a little more appreciation for the entertaining things that I have done in the past and what it takes in order to do that because it is part of my job.

“My number one priority though is and always will be to protect myself at all times. Make sure I get to my family in the best shape possible. That’s not going to change, but I’m not gonna take for granted that I have a special gift and that’s what people watch me for. I want to give a little more appreciation to that.”

Namajunas also showed appreciation for the fans who stuck by her side while many were quick to turn their backs following the lackluster performance against Esparza.

“It really gave me appreciation for the fans that really do support me regardless,” she added. “I definitely have moments where I’m not my best self so I really appreciate that.”

 Rose Namajunas Details Her Decision to Move Up a Weight Class

Returning to action in the City of Light, Rose Namajunas has found a new sense of motivation and determination following the reveal that she would be moving up from the strawweight division to flyweight where a bevy of new opponents await. 

‘Thug’ will face a very tough test in her first flyweight outing as she is paired up with No. 2 ranked contender Manon Fiorot

“I’m at a good place right now in my life where I’m just really excited to compete,” Namajunas said. “I’m excited as a martial artist to test myself against somebody that’s a very good opponent and it’s just a new challenge for me as a martial artist.”

As for what prompted her to make the move to 125, Namajunas suggested that the transition was always part of her career plans, noting that the cut to 115 became more difficult as she continued to mature. 

“I had already been getting bigger and bigger with each fight. Every time I cut to 115, the cuts just got a little bit bigger, and as a martial artist and a holistic healthy individual, it just didn’t seem that healthy to me anymore,” Namajunas revealed.

“But in the back of my mind, I always wanted to move up anyway. That was one of the later goals that I had in mind, so it just seemed like the perfect time because I had fought everybody at 115. I know that there’s still always going to be new people, but as far as when I got into the division, this is the people that I looked up to or came up at the same time. So after fighting Carla, 115 just seemed kind of lackluster.”

Rose Namajunas captured the strawweight world title on two separate occasions, including a highlight-reel-worthy first-round head kick knockout against the division’s current champion, Zhang Weili, at UFC 261. ‘Thug’ scored a second-straight win over Zhang seven months later. With her being two-up on the Chinese champion, Namajunas has little interest in going back to strawweight for a trilogy bout.

But should Namajunas one day find herself clutching flyweight gold, could we see her journey back down to 115 for two-division glory?

Published on August 29, 2023 at 4:58 pm
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