Rose Namajunas is embarking on a fresh challenge after nearly six years of remarkable achievements. In both 2011 and 2021, Namajunas clinched the UFC title at 115 pounds, triumphing over the legendary Joanna Jedrzejczyk and current strawweight champion Zhang Weili. With a decade in professional fighting under her belt, Namajunas has curated an illustrious career worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame.
So, what’s the next frontier for “Thug Rose”? On September 2nd, she will make her debut in the flyweight division against the formidable contender Manon Fiorot. Currently ranked fifth in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings at 125 pounds, this bout presents the opportunity to launch Namajunas back into title contention or potentially bring her closer to retirement.
Reflecting on her decision, Namajunas shared, “After the Carla fight [at UFC 274], regardless of the outcome, I was already contemplating this move.” She attributed this choice to the evolution of her body and maturity. While she hadn’t undergone significant weight cuts earlier in her career, recent years witnessed a change. Notably, her size increased, especially after her match with Michelle Waterson. While she enhanced her cutting techniques, she acknowledged the potential health concerns. In tandem, her mental resilience improved, yet she recognized the importance of physical strength. Deliberately, she pursued muscle gain through focused training and dietary adjustments.
Considering the prospect of fighting Zhang Weili for a third time, Namajunas expressed reservations. The idea lacked novelty and excitement. Having also faced Andrade and observed shifts in opponents’ weight classes, she sought a more challenging and fear-inducing path. For her, embracing discomfort and confronting her fears are pivotal. She acknowledged the risk of monotony in repeating the same patterns and emphasized the necessity of keeping her approach fresh and captivating.
Namajunas noted that her weight upon waking approximates 135 pounds, with minimal variation during fights. She highlighted the surprise many express at her in-competition physical strength, hinting at the misconception surrounding her capabilities.
Shifting divisions isn’t solely about breaking physical barriers for Namajunas. It serves as an essential developmental step, catalyzed by her memorable bout with Jessica Andrade at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi. This grueling three-round encounter, culminating in a split decision win for Namajunas, solidified her willingness to step out of her comfort zone. The allure of challenging herself like this motivated her choice to face Fiorot.
Elaborating on her decision to fight Fiorot, Namajunas acknowledged her initial reluctance to travel. However, she recognized that discomfort and unfamiliarity are vital growth catalysts. She recalled her rewarding experience in Abu Dhabi during the pandemic, despite sustaining an injury. Namajunas equated these experiences to medicine that nourishes her growth.
Manon Fiorot, undefeated in 10 consecutive fights since her 2018 pro debut, stands as a formidable opponent. With an impeccable 5-0 record in the octagon, she’s secured noteworthy victories over Chookagian, Maia, Bueno Silva, and Ricci. Positioned to vie for the flyweight championship, Fiorot’s accomplishments fuel Namajunas’ enthusiasm for their upcoming clash.
Namajunas finds excitement in Fiorot’s profile as a true martial artist. Beyond her athleticism, Fiorot’s karate background, fighting style, and distinctive demeanor ignite Namajunas’ competitive spirit. The convergence of these attributes resonates deeply with Namajunas, inspiring her to embrace the forthcoming challenge.