Before three historic title fights are contested at UFC 251, atop Yas Island, UAE (aka ‘Fight Island), Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade will do battle for the second time in their careers. The first time they faced each other it was for Namajunas’ UFC strawweight title belt. Andrade won that night, but then lost the title to current champ Zhang Weili. The winner of the rematch will likely be seeing Zhang soon.
During a virtual media day Namajunas spoke about the prospect of competing for her second UFC title. The former champ conceded that she may have not had the healthiest relationship to the strap the first time around. However, she enforced that—going forwards—she now knew how to handle the added pressure a championship brings.
“I feel like when you go lift weights and you pick up the bar to see how heavy something is? That’s kind of how my title reign was,” said Namajunas (per MMA Fighting).
“I know how to handle it a lot better now. But you know, I’m also not thinking past this fight. I’m focused on Jessica Andrade. I’m focused on controlling myself. I’m focused on showing up the best version I can possibly be and that’s all there is to it.”
Andrade took the title from Namajunas at UFC 237 in May, 2019. Namajunas looked as though she was winning that fight until the Brazilian lived up to her ‘pile-driving’ nickname and KO’d the American with a brutal slam.
Namajunas said she’s excited to get back in there with Andrade and hopefully leave with a different result.
“Yeah, there is a level of excitement that comes with correcting all of my mistakes and seeing the results of my training,” she said.
Namajunas cited technical aspects of her game that needed correcting heading into this fight. The TUF alum also said she has changed her mental preparations ahead of the bout. The former champion said, heading into UFC 251, she feels more confident in her abilities; which marks a change from how she felt last time out.
“In the first fight, I had some confidence but it wasn’t all the way real,” admitted Namajunas. “Now I have much more genuine confidence, real confidence based on my preparation. Not just based on what I did before. Just technically speaking, we patched up some holes but really it’s overall, it’s the mentality and it comes from the preparation and I think that’s the biggest difference. I’ll be more myself and look more like my other fights where I was being myself but kind of a 2020 version of that. New and improved.”
UFC 251 marks the first time Namajunas has fought since her loss to Andrade. Prior to that defeat she was on a three fight winning streak that included a submission win over Michelle Waterson, a TKO over Joanna Jedrzejczyk (to win the title) and a unanimous decision win over Jedrzejczyk (to defend the title).
Andrade’s last fight was her loss to Zhang in Shenzhen, China. Before that 42 second TKO, Andrade won four in a row over Namajunas, Kowalkiewicz (by KO), Tecia Torres and Claudia Gadelha.
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