Rose Namajunas’s quest for redemption starts at Fight Island

Photo: Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas get ready for UFC 251

After losing the Strawweight strap in 2019, No. 2-ranked Rose Namajunas will hit the Octagon once again in hopes of setting herself up for a future title shot.

On May 11, 2019, No. 1 Strawweight Jessica Andrade ended Namajunas’ reign as champion with a huge slam knock out in the second round.

Namajunas will enter the Octagon to face Andrade again. After that devastating loss, there was speculation as to whether Namajunas would ever fight again. However, Namajunas wasn’t willing to back down that easily.

“I love this sport,” Namajunas told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. “There’s always things to gripe and complain about, but this is what I love to do. I’m a martial artist.”

After announcing that she would continue with the UFC, the rematch was scheduled for UFC 249 on April 18. Unfortunately, COVID-19 caused the event to be canceled and eventually rescheduled for May 9. Namajunas made the difficult choice to withdraw from this fight after two of her family members contracted  COVID-19 and passed away.

“Everybody deals with death differently,” she told Helwani. “It has been a reset for me. It puts things into perspective. Everything was looking good and then everything just fell apart. It just was a wake-up call for me.”

Now Namajunas is back and ready to rise up the rankings yet again. Although she wants to be a champion again, Namajunas explained how her mindset around fighting and competition has altered. 

“I don’t miss the way I felt as a champion, but I do miss having that belt,” she told Helwani. “This has been one of my more fun training camps. It’s kind of weird. The amount of days that I didn’t look forward to training has been very seldom, so that is something I am very happy about.”

This sort of fighter fatigue is fairly commonplace, especially among the best in the world. Even former Lightweight interim champion Dustin Poirier said that he has to take time off between the fights so he stays in love with the sport.

No matter the results on Saturday, Namajunas will go down as one of the greats in women’s MMA. Her resume includes wins over Michelle Waterson, Paige Vanzant, Angela Hill and former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk, twice.

  

All that remains now for Namajunas is to climb the ranks and reclaim her belt. To do so, she will have to go up against both Andrade and current champion Weili Zhang.

On March 7, Zhang defeated Jedrzejczyk in what many are saying was the best fight of the year. The pair duked it out for all 25 minutes of the main event to draw a “Fight of the Night” bonus.

If Namajunas can get past Andrade on Saturday, she will most likely have a title shot against Zhang next. Regardless of the outcome, we know this is going to be a heated fight. This strawweight bout will take place on ESPN+ Pay-Per-View at 9:00 p.m. CST at Fight Island, Abu Dhabi. 

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2020 by "The Fightlete Report"