After pulling off a huge upset and knocking out undefeated UFC women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 217 this past November, newly instated 115-pound queen Rose Namajunas has been named ESPN’s 2017 MMA Fighter of the Year.
While other fighters like UFC champions Max Holloway and Demetrious Johnson poured it fabulous campaigns last year, “Thug” earned the nod by destroying one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world in a fight she was a +450 underdog. Namajunas also scored a submission victory over Michelle Waterson back in April.
Considering how dominant Jedrzejczyk had been prior to UFC 217, Namajunas arguably pulled off the second biggest title fight upset in UFC history behind Holly Holm’s knockout win over Ronda Rousey. Namajunas recently reflected on her big win over “Joanna Champion” two months ago in New York City
“I felt like I was part of the Knicks basketball team [before the fight with Joanna Jedrzejczyk],” Namajunas told ESPN earlier this week. “I was in that really nice locker room and I felt so light on my feet, so agile — just great. Superhuman at that moment. [Saying the Lord’s Prayer] was a habit for me growing up. When I was helpless and didn’t know what to do — that was something I said to make me feel better. Now it’s way more intentional.”
Namajunas, 25, has already tasted defeat in her relatively short mixed martial arts (MMA) career so she shouldn’t get hung up on the same chase for perfection that Jedrzejczyk did. Instead, “Thug” is looking to prove that all you need to do is fight with passion and the rest will fall into place.
“There’s way more belief and faith in [that prayer now],” Namajunas explained. “There have been moments in my life that chaos surrounded me and I kind of fell victim to it. You can become attached to chaos. I was using that negativity as energy, rather than now putting those negative situations behind me and turning my experiences into a positive. I want to inspire people that you don’t have to fight with hate. You can fight with passion and desire to make this world a better place.”
While Jedrzejczyk is a candidate to rematch Namajunas in her first title defense, “Thug” will also have to deal with the likes of Jessica Andrade, Tecia Torres, and former champion Carla Esparza, who submitted Namajunas back in 2014 to claim the inaugural UFC women’s strawweight title.
We’ll see how long Rose can rely on her passion to compete to get past the serious list of title contenders in the growing 115-pound division.