Rose Namajunas doesn’t sugarcoat it when it comes to evaluating her most recent fight.
It’s been over 15 months since Namajunas’ second strawweight title reign ended in inauspicious fashion at UFC 274. “Thug Rose” had her chance to avenge a 2014 loss to Carla Esparza, but after 25 minutes that saw neither fighter cover themselves in glory, Esparza eked out a split decision to again beat Namajunas for a belt.
Namajunas and Esparza were universally lambasted for the listless contest, with fans, fighters, and even the fight night commentary team piling on.
Looking back, does Namajunas feel that the criticism was unfair?
“No, that was definitely one of the most boring fights ever,” Namajunas said Wednesday at media day for UFC Paris. “I don’t know, I guess being the fighter it feels a little different when somebody-because it’s not just a sport for me, it’s an art, so when somebody critiques your art you get a little emotional about it.
“Ultimately, that’s fair to say what they had to say because nothing really happened. I was kind of in my feelings about it because I felt like there’s always this unspoken thing of ‘the challenger’s got to take it in order to get it’ but whatever, it’s my fault.”
Prior to that disappointing performance, Namajunas had compiled a careers-worth of highlights with memorable finishes of Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk among others, and she has been part of several thrilling contests that went the distance.
She admitted that the harsh reception to a rare off-night initially bothered her.
“It did at first, but I kind of deserved it,” Namajunas said. “I was a little bitter. I just had to kind of get out of my feelings a little bit and realize that I might have things and challenges that I deal with, but that’s not anybody else’s business. They’re just here to be inspired or to be entertained or to learn something and that’s my job as a martial artist is to go out there and do my job.”
Namajunas seeks a fresh start in a new division on Saturday when she moves up to 125 pounds to take on top contender Manon Fiorot. A win would vault Namajunas up the flyweight rankings and potentially make her the No. 1 contender for the winner of the Sept. 16 title clash between champion Alexa Grasso and former champion Valentina Shevchenko.
For now, Namajunas is focused solely on Fiorot and she’s happy to let others do the contender talk for her.
“No expectations,” Namajunas said when asked if she will be due a title shot after UFC Paris. “I just hope and pray that God uses me in a way that I can glorify Him and hopefully I put on a good performance and that I can inspire people and hopefully everything else just kind of takes care of itself. That would definitely be a dream come true, like I said, that was in my goals. But I’m not looking too far ahead, I’m just kind of in the moment.”
Watch Namajunas’ full UFC Paris scrum above.