Rose Namajunas earned her second high-profile victory in the past four months at UFC on Fox 19 on Saturday night, but at least for now, a strawweight title shot is not her main priority.
After dominating and submitting the heavily-promoted Paige VanZant in December, “Thug Rose” avenged a 2013 loss to Tecia Torres in Tampa, Fla., earning a hard-fought unanimous verdict over the American Top Team product in a featured 115-pound clash. Those triumphs should have the Namajunas at or near the top of the divisional pecking order, but she will have to wait at least until reigning champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk defends her crown against Claudia Gadelha at “The Ultimate Fighter 23” finale on July 8.
That’s just fine with Namajunas, who wouldn’t mind a little bit of a break.
“Right now I’m in no rush. I was kind of on a roll. Initially I thought I’d be ready to jump back in there, but I think now that a few months off would definitely do me some good, just mentally alongside physically,” Namajunas said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “But mentally mostly I need to find the fun in life again. This last one turned into a bit of a job leading up to it.
“Finally I was able to go in there and let go and just have fun, fall on my butt and laugh at myself. I’ve been through so much for this fight that I’m not gonna worry about it anymore. I’m done crying, I’m done not sleeping at night. Right now I do want a little bit of a break and enjoy the fight world as a fan just for a second. I’ll be fired up and ready to get back in there and improve on my fighting eventually. Right now it’s about having fun just for a little bit.”
It was Torres who started quickly in their rematch, buckling Namajunas’ knees with a left hook in the early going, but the Grudge Training Center representative gradually asserted herself as the bout progressed. Namajunas landed more effective combinations in the second stanza and likely sealed her victory with a takedown in the waning moments of the final frame. While it wasn’t nearly as emphatic as her triumph over VanZant, it was plenty satisfying nonetheless.
“This was definitely the toughest training camp of my life to this point. There was so many crazy things that led up to this fight. Everything at the very end would just work itself out. It just kept letting me know to just have faith and believe in myself. There were so many times I wanted to quit and not even try,” Namajunas said. “Tecia’s a really tough fighter, and it felt really good to get back in there with her and just give it my best. I knew she was going to be really tough to finish. I thought there would be a possibility I could in the second. I just had to keep pushing forward. She definitely got better. She’s evolved more than I had expected. I give all the props to her.”
Even though an eventual date with Jedrzejczyk or Gadelha could be on the horizon, Namajunas isn’t ruling out a rubber match with Torres somewhere down the road, either.
“I could see that as a possibility. She’s a very tough competitor and one of the very best in the division. She was undefeated for a reason. Even the couple losses she had on ’The Ultimate Fighter,’ which technically don’t count, she barely loses. I knew it was gonna be really tough to beat her,” Namajunas said. “I’m proud of my performance just given everything and all my preparation. I feel like there’s room for improvement, and I always want to finish people. I’ve got to look over the fight again. There’s spots where I was a little bit reckless or I wasn’t listening to my coaches all the time. I got a little carried away some times and there was a lot of mistakes. There was a lot of good in it, too.”