Dominant strawweight titleholder Joanna Jedrzejczyk will try to remain unbeaten in a title defense against Jessica Andrade at this year’s UFC 211 held on May 13 in Dallas — and one person will be paying extra attention: Rose Namajunas.
“I think I just have the perfect skill set to test her in all areas,” MMA fighter Namajunas told Fox News.
If Jedrzejczyk successfully retains her title, Namajunas, who has seven wins, three losses and zero draws, will take her on as the next challenger for the title.
“I think I have the best striking in the division… I have a certain type of swagger to me that none of the girls can really emulate,” explained the 24-year-old. “And no training partner that these girls have can really emulate that either and prepare for me. I throw a different combination from all different angles. I’m very creative, but I’m also very solid in my basics, too. I’m not just flash, you know. I’m the whole package.”
Still, Namajunas refused to downplay the 29-year-old Polish fighter’s talent.
“She [Joanna] has proven time and time again that she can come back from adversity and, you know, even when things aren’t perfect or going her way 100 percent, she still has that champion mindset that she hasn’t been broken yet. And that’s going to be really tough for Jessica to do. So I see Joanna coming out on top just as she’s always been and retaining that belt.”
It’s Namajunas’ bold confidence, signature left hooks, and no-nonsence jiu-jitsu combos have her often being compared to Ronda Rousey. And while Namajunas acknowledged that being featured in the same sentence as Rousey is an honor, she much rather be recognized for her own abilities.
“There’s definitely some negative feelings towards that comment just because when it was originally said, there was all this hype going up behind me, coming off the Ultimate Fighter,” Namajunas admitted. “Now that I won a fight, people are saying it again. To me, it’s cool though because obviously that’s the biggest name ever in women’s MMA. Of course I want to be compared to her, but I also want to make my own way. And I think I’m a lot different than her. But in terms of reaching her stardom and the amount of people she was able to reach is amazing and of course, I would want to reach that level.”
But the road to Namajunas’ personal success as the fearful “Thug” wasn’t easy. The Milwaukee native described growing up in a tough neighborhood, which prompted her mother, a pianist, to encourage her daughter to pursue music. However Namajunas, who studied both piano and martial arts at the same time in in her childhood, would eventually brawl professionally and never look back.
“There was a lot of crime where I was living,” she explained. “And there was a lot of…you know, not good stuff for me to get into. I just kept myself busy with martial arts, piano and all different kinds of sports and things like that. But I still got into trouble… you know, just being a little rowdy kid and having a lot of friends in the neighborhood. We got into fights… I wouldn’t change it for anything, but it was not easy for me.”
So far, her injuries has been minimal and her face is perfectly intact — an achievement where anything goes within a match that often ends bloody.
“I rolled my ankle pretty bad, to the point where I thought it was broken because it just made such a loud pop,” she described. “And I still had to fight, sustaining that injury a couple months before the fight. I’m pretty lucky though to say that I’ve had no surgeries, no major surgeries or anything like that. No stitches… I haven’t even had major broken bones or anything from fighting itself. I’m pretty lucky of an individual to be sitting here and not have major scars on my face or anything like that.”
Namajunas pointed out one common injury among mixed martial artists that was somehow also barely noticeable.
“I have a bit of tiny, tiny cauliflower ear, but nothing major,” she said.
Despite potential hospital visits and permanent battle wounds, Namajunas insisted that she feels empowered as a woman.
“I think this is the only sport that really gives women respect… We get treated almost the same as the men, if not better sometimes in some areas,” she said. “Of course, there’s some extra perks that comes along with being cute or whatever, but I think it’s really cool to be respected as an athlete rather than just a female.”
But Namajunas is concerned about one thing. Recently, four female UFC fighters were feared to be the latest celebrities to have private photos leaked by hackers onto the internet without their consent. Other celebrities, including those in the WWE and Hollywood have reportedly fallen prey to the ongoing scandal.
Fortunately though, Namajunas hasn’t been added to that unwanted list.
“I am kind of an introvert and I like my privacy,” she said. “So it’s definitely something that would bother me if my photos got leaked of me. But you know, at the same time, I try not to portray myself that way… that would definitely bother me. I think that would bother anybody.”
Still, Namajunas isn’t stressing it. She’ll be focusing on the upcoming match and, like a warrior getting ready for battle, gearing up for her next victory.
UFC 211 takes place Saturday, May 13.