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Champion Check-In: Rose Namajunas

 

The anniversary is coming up. One year as strawweight champion for Rose Namajunas. But “Thug Rose” isn’t spending too much time thinking about what happened in the 12 months since she defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk on November 4, 2017, or even what’s going to happen in the next year. It’s all about today.

“It’s hard to describe,” she said of her reign as champion. “I think I’ll have a better description once this is behind me. It’s almost like when certain things happen in history, you don’t really know what happened until 20 years pass. Right now, it’s trying to stay present in every moment and not dwell on the past or the future too much and try to stay happy, healthy and safe as much as possible. Those are the main priorities I have, to keep focused on every day and not spend too much energy worrying about anything else.”

These days, the champ is taking a well-deserved break after a pair of victories over Jedrzejczyk, the most recent coming at UFC 223 in April. That doesn’t mean she’s sitting idle.

“I’m just taking care of some things that I’ve put off for a while – things around the house, family stuff and rehabbing old injuries, while at the same time working on getting better every day,” said Namajunas.

What? No piano playing?

 
 
 

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“I’ve been doing some of that as well,” she laughs. “I’m working that in there when I can.”

She also dusted off the 500-page book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, and is starting to put together her own tome, one that won’t be the usual biography. But don’t worry, there will be some good “Thug Rose” stories from her early years in Milwaukee.

“Yeah, I would say so,” she laughs.

When all is said and done, the lasting impression we may have of Namajunas is of a true Renaissance Woman, one that didn’t just punch opponents in the face at an elite level, but that could pen a compelling tale and provide the soundtrack for it. That’s some legacy to leave, but at 26, she clearly has some chapters to write, and in 2019, she begins life after Joanna. And that could be the most enjoyable part of her championship reign thus far.

“I don’t know if necessarily I get to enjoy the title so much as I get to enjoy thinking about somebody else other than Joanna for however long,” she said. “I’m always enjoying the title as long as I’m blessed to have it in my possession. That’s going to be an everyday thing. But yeah, I’m really excited to look to keep developing my skills and get better as a martial artist in general, and I’m looking forward to a different storyline. Maybe one day me and Joanna’s storylines will meet up again, but it’s nice to not have to think about her for a second.”

Are we getting an exclusive here? Is Namajunas going to 125 for another meeting with JJ?

She laughs. No exclusive.

“Maybe if it gets to the point where there’s a compelling reason to go up, I might, but I definitely have a lot of unfinished business at 115, so we’ll see.”

That unfinished business is good news for fight fans, as a division that seemed to be at a standstill around the time of Namajunas-Jedrzejczyk 2 is now heating up after Jessica Andrade’s blistering knockout of Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Tatiana Suarez’ equally impressive win over Carla Esparza. And while it’s usually the challengers chasing the champ, this champion has got her eyes focused on all challengers.

“Even after beating Joanna the second time, the division seemed to be a bit up in the air with no clear contender necessarily,” said Namajunas. “I’ve always had my eye on Jessica Andrade, but let’s just say her last performance definitely changed some things and made a more clear statement about who deserves the next shot. And there’s also other interesting talent at 115. Obviously Tatiana wants to call me out and everybody still thinks that I’m still the same fighter that fought Carla, so that makes an interesting case for me to have something out there where I can not only prove to myself but prove to the rest of the world that I’m truly different and matured and a complete fighter and not the same as I was when I was 22.”

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The old saying is that “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Namajunas, who seems well-prepared and well-suited for a long reign.

“It’s a thing I’ve seen a lot of fighters have trouble with,” she said. “So I try not to get moved too much by the highs and the lows, because the lows will come, no matter what. So it’s best to treat every moment as it is and accept it for what it is and not make it more or less than that. Enjoy the ride.”