Despite being listed as the number one contender on the UFC’s official strawweight rankings, UFC President Dana White recently commented that former champ Rose Namajunas may not be in line for a title shot versus Zhang Weili. Instead, White floated the idea that Carla Esparza might get that honour, commenting that he didn’t think Namajunas wanted to fight for the title.
Since then both Namajunas and her manager, Brian Butler, have rebuffed those claims and insisted that ‘Thug’ Rose was ready to fight and eager to face Zhang.
Now we can add Pat Barry, Namajunas’ fiancee and coach, to those voices stating that Namajunas wants a chance to win back the UFC strawweight championship. He appeared on the UFC Unfiltered podcast to explain how White’s comments were the result of a misunderstanding.
“That was just a misunderstanding of some sort,” Barry said (per Alexander K. Lee of MMA Fighting). “I’m sure the UFC knows what they’re doing. Dana White knows what they’re doing. We know the call is coming. There must have been some miscommunication somewhere, but she absolutely—Yeah, of course, the title fight, but anybody. She’ll fight somebody today. This girl is ready ready.”
Namajunas was also on the podcast. She backed-up Barry’s comments and added that, not only is she ready to fight Zhang, she’s already started scouting the champ.
“I’ve been watching Weili ever since I saw her fight Tecia [Torres] a while back, I started to have my eye on her. Especially ever since she became champion I’ve been scouting her out and breaking her down, game-planning for her because yeah, she’s got the belt, that’s really what you have to go off of.”
Namajunas’ lone bout of 2020 was a victorious Fight of the Night performance over fellow-former champion Jessica Andrade. Namajunas won that fight by split decision, avenging a 2019 loss to the Brazilian.
In the main event of UFC 237 Namajunas lost her UFC strawweight belt to Andrade, after being KO’d by a slam in the second round. That was Namajunas’ first contest since a two-fight series with Joanna Jedrzejczyk, which featured Namajunas beating Jedrzejczyk for the title in 2017 (via TKO) and defending it a year later (via unanimous decision).
Before getting a title shot versus Jedrzejczyk, Namajunas put together a 4-2 run in the promotion, starting with a loss to Esparza in the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 20 in 2014. After that she beat Angela Hill, Paige VanZant, Tecia Torres and Michelle Waterson.
Current champ Zhang only fought once in 2020; a Fight of the Year split decision victory over Jedrzejczyk. That was ‘Magnum’’s first title defence after taking the belt from Andrade via a 42 secodn TKO in Shenzhen in 2019.
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