Former UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas says she was offered a title shot opposite reigning champ Weili Zhang, but decided to turn down the opportunity.
Namajunas opened up on this would-be title fight, and explained why she turned it down, on a recent episode of the UFC Unfiltered podcast. She says she simply wasn’t sure that she wanted to continue fighting at the time — which is a pretty good reason not to fight the division’s top fighter.
“I think everyone else felt the same way, too,” Namajunas said (via MMA Junkie). “I was even offered Weili at the time, but I just – at the time I was still dealing with a lot of my own (things), just getting my head right, and I hired a mental coach that’s helping me do a lot of different things. And so there was a lot of work that needed to be done.
“I wasn’t ready for that just yet. I didn’t even really know if I wanted to fight at that time anymore, just because I wanted to make sure that this is something that I wanted to do and I wasn’t just like, ‘Let’s have another fight just because I’m good at it.’”
Namajunas has not fought since she surrendered the UFC strawweight title to Jessica Andrade, who went on to lose the title to Zhang. She lost the fight via TKO after being slammed on her head by Andrade.
In hindsight, Namajunas admits this was a tough loss to deal with — particularly given its violent nature — but she was eventually able to move on from it.
“It was definitely one of my harder losses that I’ve dealt with,” Namajunas said, looking back on that setback. “I think the thing is, I knew exactly – it was easier in the sense that I knew exactly all of the things that I did wrong. The harder part is taking responsibility for myself, and yeah, maybe situations around me that I couldn’t control could have been better. But I could have taken control over a lot more things in my life. So ultimately, taking that responsibility is the hardest part out of everything.
“I got dropped on my head – I could have been paralyzed. It’s like, ‘Well, I wasn’t paralyzed, so why should I be paralyzed in fear if it didn’t happen?’” Namajunas added. “I should celebrate the fact that I’m walking around and it’s a miracle that my neck feels better than it’s ever felt in the past few years. Prior to that happening, I had a fracture in my neck, so it was hurting a lot – and after that, I feel great.”
Rose Namajunas is now set for a rematch with Jessica Andrade at UFC 249 this April in Brooklyn. The bout could easily produce the next strawweight title challenger. Weili Zhang, meanwhile, will defend her title against Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248 this weekend.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 3/3/2020.