In the bowels of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center back in 2018 a feud between the camps of Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov boiled over in ways we’ve never seen before. After a press conference including fighters scheduled to compete at UFC 223, McGregor and his entourage accosted a bus transporting some of those fighters. What happened next made headlines across the world.
Rose Namajunas, who was due to defend her 115 lb title versus Joanna Jedrzejczyk, was one of the passengers on the bus. She witnessed McGregor and his team surround the vehicle before McGregor launched a metal dolly through one of the windows.
Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg both suffered lacerations in that incident, which forced them off of the event. And Artem Lobov vs. Alex Cacares was scrapped due to Lobov’s affiliation with McGregor. McGregor would receive a slap on the wrists from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for this incident. Later on the UFC used footage of the incident to promote McGregor.
Despite what happened, Namajunas remained on the card for UFC 223. There she retained her belt with a unanimous decision win over her Polish adversary. She’s fought just two other times since that moment.
In a new programme on UFC Fight Pass Namajunas spoke at length about what happened leading up to UFC 223.
“It was like an eternity being in that bus, because I had no idea who that was that was attacking us,” said Namajunas (ht MMA Fighting). “All of a sudden I see a big ol’ fist kind of bang on my window and then I see one of the security guards grab one of the dudes.
“I didn’t know it was Conor until a little bit later. When he threw the dolly, the bus was backing up into the elevator spot as he threw it to the window right in front of me. But had the bus not been moving, it would have hit my window.”
On that programme Namajunas revealed that the incident touched on sources of past pain and anxiety. She also shared what she did in those moments to centre herself.
“In my head, once I found out it was Conor, I was a little relieved, but I still was on edge. It just took me back to when I was a kid, riding to school through bad neighbourhoods on a bus and people throwing sh*t at our bus. And I’ve never been completely cornered like that. We were just sitting there not in control. So what did I do in that moment? I said the Lord’s prayer again and then it did make me feel a little bit better at that moment, and it got me through that tough moment.
“And everything that was from my childhood, this is what I fought to get out of, and this is like back to stupid street sh*t that I don’t want to be around that any more. That’s what I fought my way out of. So here I find myself again in this same spot, but then at the same time, I came back around it, like, this is also what I’m here for. So I took it as motivation to show the world that’s not gonna stop me.”
Namajunas said the incident left her feeling incredibly tense heading into her fight with Jedrzejczyk. So much so that she said she made her hands bleed backstage because her fists were gripped so tightly.
The former champ said the tension lasted during her walkout, but ebbed away once the fight got underway.
Namajunas entered the UFC in 2013 through The Ultimate Fighter in a season designed to crown the organization’s first ever strawweight champion. In the finale of that series Namajunas came up short to Carla Esparza.
After the Esparza fight Namajunas won three in a row, over Angela Hill, Paige VanZant and Tecia Torres, before losing a split decision to Karolina Kowalkiewicz. In 2017 she rebounded from that loss with a submission win over Michelle Waterson to earn a title shot against Jedrzejczyk (who took the title from Esparza back in 2015).
Namajunas beat Jedrzejczyk by first round TKO to win the title at UFC 217 on November 4th, 2017. The victory put Namajunas on a bevvy of best-of lists for that year.
After defending her title to Jedrzejczyk at UFC 223, Namajunas lost the belt to Jessica Andrade at UFC 237 in May 2019. Andrade quickly lost the belt herself, to current champ Zhang Weili. This July Namajunas beat Andrade by split decision at UFC 251.
It is expected that Namajunas will face Zhang for the title sometime next year.
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