Rose Namajunas’ manager says former champion was ‘definitely’ interested in Jessica Andrade rematch

Jessica Andrade has her first title defense set, and it won’t be a rematch against

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Jessica Andrade vs. Weili Zhang Title Fight Targeted For UFC China

According to a report from ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto, the UFC is targeting a women’s strawweight title bout between newly crowned champion Jessica Andrade and rising contender Weili Zhang. The UFC is hoping to finalize this bout as the main event of a UFC Fight Night card on August 31. The event will be broadcast live on ESPN+ from mainland China.

Jessica Andrade

Last month, Andrade challenged Rose Namajunas for the 115-pound title in the main event of UFC 237. The event took place live on pay-per-view and in her native country of Brazil.

Early on, “Thug Rose” appeared to be in control of the bout, as she quickly gained the upper hand on the feet throughout round one. In the second round, however, Andrade bounced back and scored a stoppage victory after brutally slamming Namajunas to the canvas.

Prior to her victory over Namajunas, the 27-year-old Andrade had picked up three-straight victories over some of the division’s top names. That list includes in former title challengers in Claudia Gadelha and Karolina Kowalkiewicz as well as longtime contender Tecia Torres.

Weili Zhang

Zhang, a 29-year-old native of Hebei, China, has been on an incredibly impressive run of success over the last five years.

After losing her professional MMA debut in November 2013, she has won 19-straight fights. That streak also includes a whopping 16 victories by way of stoppage.

As far as her UFC career goes, Zhang signed with the world’s largest MMA promotion in 2018. Since then, she has picked up three consecutive victories. In her promotional debut, she scored a decision victory over Danielle Taylor before submitting Jessica Aguilar last November. Most recently, “Magnum” outpointed Torres in a bout this past March.

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Team Rose Namajunas responds to Andrade vs. Zhang fight

Former UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas hopes to get a rematch with current champion Jessica Andrade, but she’s first looking to take some time off to recover from a neck injury. Following the news that Andrade will face Weili Zhang at UFC China in late August, Namajunas’ manager Brian Butler released a statement to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto.

“Rose was definitely interested in the rematch however right now she is taking time to heal up. She had a neck injury before her last fight and now is just gong to take the time to take care of herself and get back to 100%. Her plan is to fight sometime by the end of this year. When Rose decides to come back she will come back better than ever.”

It’s also worth mentioning that Butler also represents Weili Zhang. He told ESPN that Rose Namajunas wasn’t being seriously considered due to the timetable of both the UFC and Jessica Andrade.

Rose Namajunas lost the title to Jessica Andrade back at UFC 237 by way of second-round knockout, and following the fight she spoke to the media and sounded uncertain about her future in fighting, but the update from her manager sounds like she’s now focused on returning to the UFC Octagon.

With Weili Zhang being targeted as the first title defense for Jessica Andrade, that leaves three top contenders, Michelle Waterson, Tatiana Suarez, and Namajunas waiting for the next title fight, and sets up an interesting dynamic when they all return to action.

Before losing her title to Jessica Andrade, Rose Namajunas was on a three-fight winning streak including back-to-back wins over former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Namajunas is 8-4 in her professional career and has victories over the likes of Waterson, Tecia Torres, Paige VanZant, and the already mentioned Jedrzejczyk.

Who would you like to see Rose Namajunas face when she returns to action?

This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 6/11/2019

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Champions carry a heavy burden and Rose Namajunas was no different

We’ve seen fighters cry, run out of the cage unexpectedly and even demand an immediate rematch after losing the UFC title.

Not Rose Namajunas.

The former strawweight queen flashed a smile after being knocked off the mountaintop by Brazilian contender Jessica Andrade. It was the same mountain Namajunas had dedicated her life towards climbing. The impossible expectations, endless training hours, ups-and-downs, disappointments and breakthroughs all the way up to defeating Joanna Jedrzejczyk in back-to-back title fights—it was all a weight to be carried by Namajunas. Not only did Andrade relieve her of the UFC title, but she relieved her of the burden of being a champion.

“It’s just a huge pressure of my shoulders,” Rose Namajunas said after the fight at UFC 237, when speaking with commentator Jon Anik.

Most were taken aback by the comments considering how spectacular Namajunas looked in the actual fight. The striking display she put on in the first round was at the highest level you will ever see in the sport—male or female. She was a sniper sticking behind her jab and picking apart Andrade’s defense from long range, but it was her meticulous footwork and crisp combinations that truly highlighted the evolution of women’s MMA. Everyone tuning into the UFC 237 main event knew they were witnessing something special—perhaps even a young Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones sort of moment.

Namajunas looked like she was destined to scale the pound-for-pound rankings and reign indefinitely over the strawweight division. Then came the slam heard ‘round the world. While fighting off a kimura submission against the fence, Andrade hoisted Namajunas as high as she could go and dropped her on her head.

And just like that, it was over.

An impressive championship run, albeit a short-lived one, didn’t ruin Namajunas’ sudden appreciation of the view from the bottom. She might have taken a different path, but she made the same climb as Andrade, stood on the mountaintop and at some point decided she had seen enough.

Being a UFC champion comes with the celebrity spotlight and a larger paycheck, but it also comes with more expectations and commitments heaped on top of everything else that led the fighter up the mountain. It’s a soul-sucking, roller coaster ride that can leave some fighters on empty after the first defense. That’s the truth that comes with sitting on the throne, and it’s one Namajunas may or may not miss.

“I’ve been hearing that [there could be a rematch],” Rose Namajunas said at the post-fight presser, via MMAFighting.com. “I definitely was whooping her butt, there’s no doubt about that. I just kind of like, I don’t know, we’ll see if I’m still interested in this. …I’m not gonna make no decisions right now, I don’t know. It’s just hard to keep having fun with this.”

There is so much more to life than throwing on a pair of four ounce gloves and punching another human being in the face, and Namajunas seems intent on exploring those options. It isn’t easy getting up early every morning and constantly doing the grunt work to prepare to compete against the best fighters in the world. Being a champion is even more demanding considering you’re constantly facing the No. 1 contender in your weight class. It’s the reason why ridiculously long championship runs like we’ve seen from Demetrious Johnson, Silva, St-Pierre and Jones are so rare.

Being a fighter is hard, but being a champion is even harder.

“The week leading up to the fight, you’re very stressed,” St-Pierre said well over a year ago. “It’s unbelievable. And I don’t like that part of my work — I hate it. Especially, it’s mostly the waiting part. I love fighting when I’m in the gym and I train with a guy. I love exchanging knowledge, I love training. But when I’m fighting, the pressure of it, it’s crazy. It’s unbearable. I hate it.”

The waiting part that St-Pierre speaks of alludes to the anxiety that comes with the unknowns of stepping in the cage. It’s easy for armchair experts to be desensitized from the pounding of flesh and bone-on-bone contact vividly displayed on their television screens. Fighting is a tough way to make a living, and only the ones enduring the throes of combat truly feel the weight of that risk.

“I feel like God has really called me for the last little while, and it’s changed my spirit and changed my heart,” St-Pierre’s longtime teammate Rory MacDonald said after defending his welterweight title at Bellator 220 in April. “It takes a certain spirit to come in here and put a man through pain and stuff, and I don’t know if I have that same drive to hurt people anymore.”

The cage can be an unforgiving place for uncertain inhabitants.

Fighting is an all-or-nothing sport that encompasses risk and an unwavering bravado few athletes on the planet possess. Rose Namajunas shouldered that burden alone as a champion on foreign soil, which was an iconic feat in itself considering most champions would have passed on such a challenge. Now, rather than dragging out a career merely on the premise that she’s good at it, she would rather take a step back and reevaluate her next move.

Championships, competition, prize fighting, money, fame—that’s all only one chapter in the 26-year story on Rose Namajunas. There are plenty of blank pages still left to fill, and whether it’s as Thug Rose or just Rose, Namajunas will pen the rest of the story the way she sees fit.

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We always push our aging legends toward retirement, and our reasons are rarely good enough for them

A lot of us probably looked at the lineup for UFC 237 in Rio de Janeiro and thought (or maybe just hoped) there would be one or even two potential retirement speeches by the end of the night.

Few of us probably thought that we’d make it all the way through and the only one seriously discussing the possibility of leaving the sport would be 26-year-old Rose Namajunas, who looked as sharp as she ever has right up until she got slammed on her head and lost her strawweight title.

Isn’t that just the way it goes? The fighters you want to see more of aren’t sure they want to give it to you. Meanwhile the ones you almost can’t bear to watch anymore remain as committed as ever to soldiering on indefinitely.

And, with Anderson Silva and B.J. Penn, that commitment seems to only get stronger as more and more people plead with them to let it go.

“There is one saying, I will go until the end and the more they pressure me, the more I will want to go until the end,” Silva wrote on Instagram after his loss to Jared Cannonier via injury TKO. “There’s nothing wild that feels sorry for itself. An old lion surrounded by hungry hyenas, crazy to devour him and he still fights to the death without ever feeling sorry for himself. And it won’t be different with me.”

Penn backed that sentiment in remarks to his own website after his unanimous decision loss to Clay Guida, insisting that he still thinks he can be competitive and still loves to fight.

“Anderson Silva said it best,” Penn said. “Never feel sorry for the lion, because the lion doesn’t feel sorry for himself when he is surrounded by a bunch of hyenas ready to die.”

Isn’t it amazing what you can transform into a semi-romantic idea when you route it through animal imagery?

More than maybe any other sport, MMA loves to shove its athletes toward retirement. Some of this is by necessity. In team sports, getting on a roster and staying there is tied for more to ability and productivity. If you can’t help the ball club, you soon run out of people willing to pay you to try.

But fight sports care more about ticket sales and name recognition. Fans don’t come just to see the home team win; they come for a show. Even when you get to a point where you can’t do it against the best anymore, that doesn’t mean a crafty promoter can’t find somebody you’re capable of beating – at least if he believes that that’s where the percentage lies.

We don’t want our favorite fighters to retire because we think there’s nobody left who will pay them to get hit in the head. We want them to retire because we know that somebody is out there, and we fear what it might look like.

Is it selfish of us? Of course it is. Penn and Silva keep telling us that they’re still here because they still love it, and yeah, that seems true. We can tell ourselves that we want them to stop because we’re concerned about their health, which might also be true, but it’s also because we don’t like what they’re doing to our fond memories of them.

In their primes, both these fighters were titans among mortals. They didn’t just dominate, they expanded the known universe of what was possible in an MMA fight.

Then they got old. Their bodies and their skills began to decay. They turned into middle-aged men. We watched this happen. We had to reconcile who they used to be with who they became.

Pretty soon we got to a place where the new version’s mediocrity was casting a shadow on the former version’s greatness, which is when we decided it’d be easier (for us) if they just stopped.

That’s what this is about, really. We don’t want them to make us feel bad. If we have to watch them get old and average then we might be forced to think about what time is doing or will do to all of us. And if they mess around and wreck their bodies and/or their brains by staying too long in a dangerous sport, some day we might have to watch them go through that in a way that will force us to consider the final costs of all this violent entertainment.

You can see how this would be an unconvincing argument to them, especially while they’re still enjoying themselves and still getting paid. They didn’t start doing this for us, so why should they stop just to spare our feelings?

Besides, if it bothers us so much, we can always look away. When we’ve mastered that skill, maybe we’ll get the version of the sport that we think we want.

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