UFC 223: Rose Namajunas overcomes doubt and adversity once again to remain a champion
"Thug Rose" remains a beaming light and potential star in the making for UFC
BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Rose Namajunas' diminutive stature should not be the way you judge her. Nor should the way she openly discusses the fear she has every time she steps inside a UFC Octagon for another fight. What should define her is that no matter the challenge, she steps up and faces it.
On Thursday afternoon, Namajunas was on the bus preparing to head back to the fighters' hotel after media day obligations when a dolly nearly hit her in the head. The reigning women's strawweight champion was nearly the victim of a raged Conor McGregor attack on their transport vehicle when the object crashed through the glass of the bus as debris hit fellow fighter Michael Chiesa. Namajunas says the dolly was close to hitting her window and she was lucky to not suffer similar injuries to Chiesa. She also considered stepping out of the co-main event because of it.
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"I did, but I think a that a lot of times leading up to fights I'll think that or I'll doubt myself or start questioning myself, but the voice was strong this time," Namajunas said after her second straight win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk on Saturday night at the Barclays Center. "I've been in tough spots before. I've been in manual fights before, this was just another level of that. A new challenge, a new development in my growth and so I welcome that. I just wanted to prove to myself that I can once again face my fears and it'll pay off.
"It shook me up because I didn't know how far it was going to escalate. You know, all the guys inside, they wanted to go jump out of the bus, but I'm like 'I don't know if they're going to open the door and all come in.' I know they're not directly after me, but I'm just caught in this scenario and I don't know ... my imagination goes crazy through all the things that I've been through in the past. Anybody could have a gun or knife, we don't know. I jump to the negative kinda quickly."
Namajunas has been open about her issues with her father and his battle with mental-health problems. She carries those experiences with her as she continues to size in stardom as a champion.
"There was a lot of thoughts going into this fight, but I'm just grateful to be in one piece and be happy, healthy and safe," Namajunas said.
In the third round of her bout on Saturday night, things started to swing away from her and back to rival Jedrzejczyk when the Polish fighter was landing strong legkicks that wobbled Namajunas a bit. But, as she's done throughout her career, Namajunas carried her quiet and calm charisma through the wave and back into the lead on the judges' scorecards.
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"I just kept saying 'I'm the best, I'm the best.' Eventually, I just had to accept that my feet aren't moving as well," Namajunas said. "I just abandoned the gameplan a little bit and just went out there and had fun. I just said 'screw it, I'm just going to be slow instead of trying to be quick because it's obviously not working.'"
Namajunas knows now that Jedrzejczyk has more respect for her, even if she thinks she won the fight because she landed more strikes (160-108).
"She had a lot better range this time, her conditioning was [better]. She just stepped it up, she improved in general and my hats off to her. This entire camp, I was just thinking about how she did it five times in a row. I have a lot of respect for her."
Namajunas feels the pressure of failure, of losing, of not being her best every time she steps foot in the Octagon. It was even heavier on her this week, but as has been the case for the majority of her career, Namajunas finished with style and grace.
"This is a lot of pressure and a lot of things to overcome, but I did it."
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