Rose Namajunas is hoping to prove she’s an evolved and more experienced title threat later tonight (Sat., Apr. 24, 2021) at UFC 261 live on ESPN+ PPV from inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla., when “Thug” takes on UFC women’s strawweight champion Zhang Weili in the co-main event.
This is a big opportunity for Namajunas after losing her title to Jessica Andrade back at UFC 237 in 2019. While Namajunas ultimately avenged that loss to Andrade by defeating her over one year later at UFC 251 the former UFC women’s strawweight champion is still eager to prove she has a different mindset in 2021.
With time to assess her past mistakes as champion and prepare for another run at UFC gold Namajunas feels rejuvenated entering her tilt with Weili tonight at UFC 261.
“I just had a lack of vision,” Namajunas told UFC.com regarding her UFC strawweight title reign from November 2017 to May 2019. “I think becoming the champ was the final destination, but I didn’t really have a clear vision as to what to do with it once I got it. I sort of got lost in that and sort of got anxious for things to be what they weren’t, and I got impatient and didn’t maintain gratitude. Those were some of the mistakes, and I learned a lot from it.”
While Weili has won her last 21 professional bouts and has looked like an absolute killer during her five equally-impressive UFC appearances, Namajunas is no stranger to pulling off the upset. Remember, “Thug” ended Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s UFC title reign back in 2017 with an upset TKO finish at UFC 217. So even though Namajunas respects the heck out of Weili she believes she’ll ultimately be able to beat the champion at her own game.
“She’s a true martial artist. She does every discipline and is very unique but, at the same time, she’s kind of a hybrid of a lot of the fighters I’ve fought in the past. So it’s an element of a little bit of everything I’ve seen before with maybe just a little bit of uniqueness of her own,” Namajunas explained.
“Some of her coaches say that she looks at her opponents and uses their strength to either best them or implement it into her own game. I feel as though I do the same thing, so it’s very intriguing to me because I’ve never fought anyone like that before. I feel like I do that better than anybody, so it’s going to be really exciting.”
Namajunas, who is entering her fourth UFC title fight this weekend in Jacksonville, is hoping to lean on her experience in these big spots to gain an advantage over Weili. The former champion seems to be in a great mental space as well, which always makes her more dangerous entering a fight.
“I think with the more experience that I’ve gained, the more I realize how important confidence is,” Namajunas said. “Once you can be honest and you can identify your fears and anxieties, it’s the only way you can attack and overcome them. That’s probably the biggest thing that I’ve implemented in my mental preparation. I think also from being the champ, I realized maintaining gratitude and a healthy positive perspective on life is also very key.”
What do you think, fight fans? Will Namajunas be able to use her experience to hand Weili her first loss since 2013?
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 261 fight card right HERE, starting with the early ESPN2/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.