Paris, France — “Thug” Rose Namajunas is best known as a two-time UFC women’s strawweight champion, but this Saturday at UFC Paris, she’ll make her flyweight debut for the promotion.
Namajunas (11-5) moving up to 125lbs took many by surprise, given she was never the largest strawweight. But during Wednesday’s UFC Paris media day, she told media outlets including Cageside Press that becoming a two-division champion had long been a goal of hers.
“When I originally made a bunch of goals for my career, early on when I was younger, being a two-division champ was on the end of the list, but it was there,” explained Namajunas, who will meet France’s Manon Fiorot in her flyweight coming out. “I think I’m known for surprises, so it’s just kind of my style.”
Namajunas did compete as a flyweight during her amateur days. But she has not fought there as a pro, and made the decision in part due to her body changing.
“I think just progressively, early on in my career I was maybe a smaller strawweight you would say. And then over time as I’ve matured and my body changed, each cut would get bigger and bigger. The fight with Carla [Esparza], I think that weight cut I finally had the sunken in eyes, the thing that most fighters kind of deal with. I didn’t like that,” recalled Namajunas. “I never really enjoyed cutting weight anyways, or I never really liked when people did those huge cuts. A little bit’s okay. I think I started to see myself going down that path.”
“It was sort of in the back of my mind anyway. I still didn’t have too much trouble making weight I guess. It was tough, but I don’t think in comparison it was as bad as most fighters deal with. But I still didn’t like that. It takes a while, I think it takes more than 24 hours to re-hydrate your brain after cutting that much water. So to take punches like that, and then your kidney’s and everything…”
“I guess the process of me, putting on more [weight], I just started getting bigger naturally,” Namajunas continued. “And then on top of that once I decided to move up, I lifted more weights, I ate a little bit more, I actually started eating breakfast again, stopped fasting so much.”
In terms of how her body has changed, “I naturally put on a couple pounds of muscle and maybe a little bit of some juice, a little bit of fat,” she noted. And it seems a return to strawweight is likely off the table. “I can’t see myself going back down again. Now I’m kind of naturally just walking around at 135, or waking up at 135. So to go down all the way to 115 would be tough.”
There’s a possibility, despite the emergence of Erin Blanchfield as a contender, that the winner of Namajunas vs. Fiorot could be next in line for the title. Alexa Grasso defends her flyweight belt in a rematch with Valentina Shevchenko next month at Noche UFC, and a strong performance by either fighter could have them anticipating a title shot.
That said, there are “no expectations,” said Namajunas, who turned the attention to her faith and God’s plan. But the reality is, she would like the title shot were it available. “That would definitely be a dream come true. Like I said, those are my goals, but I’m not looking too far ahead, I’m just kind of in the moment.”
Watch the full UFC Paris media day appearance by Rose Namajunas above.
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