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.

The post Champions carry a heavy burden and Rose Namajunas was no different appeared first on | BJPenn.com.

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.

Low Down Podcast: Anderson Silva Injury Update, Rousey Legacy, Fighter Hospialized and Conor McGregor Walks

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Join The Low Down and discuss the hottest MMA topics of the day including an Anderson Silva injury update, Ronda Rousey addressing her legacy, Rose Namajunas’ comments signaling a possible retirement, Alexander Volkanvoski being hospitalized, charges dropped against Conor McGregor, and more.

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Daily Debate results: Does Rose Namajunas deserve a rematch with Jessica Andrade?

Rose Namajunas has thrown some doubt on her fighting future, but if she decides to carry on, what should come next?

The former strawweight champ was clearly questioning her next move following her shocking knockout loss to Jessica Andrade at this past Saturday’s UFC 237 event in Brazil, wondering aloud if she had the desire to continue competing. But emotions certainly run high in moments such as that, and she is still clearly one of the best female fighters on the planet.

So if she decides to continue on, where does her career stand? While she looked phenomenal in the opening round against Andrade (20-6 MMA, 11-4 UFC), Namajunas (8-4 MMA, 6-3 UFC) did ultimately suffer a knockout loss, and her title reign ended with just one defense of her title. Is that enough to warrant a rematch with Andrade should Namajunas choose to follow such a path?

That was the question we asked in our latest MMA Junkie Radio Daily Debate.

The results, via Twitter:

To hear the MMA Junkie Radio crew weigh in on the topic, watch the video above.

For complete coverage of UFC 237, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

MMA Junkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio. You can also check out www.siriusxm.com/siriusxmfightnation.

UFC 237 in tweets

UFC 237 is in the books and from the first fight of the night, it was clear to see it was going to be a fantastic night of action. Kicking off the main card was Irene Aldana vs Bethe Correia at Bantamweight. Correia came in 5 pounds over the bantamweight allowance of 136lbs on Friday morning and was fined 30% of her purse. Early on, The Mexican Aldana found a home for her punch combo’s but with Correia’s ‘take one to land one’ motto, Aldana couldn’t put the Brazilian down. As a tiring Correia went for a level change, Aldana ended up on her back and sunk in an armbar to extend her winning run to three in the bantamweight division.

Next up was UFC veteran Thiago Alves against the streaking Laureano Staropoli at Welterweight. Staropoli made his UFC debut in November and picked up a unanimous decision victory. After a high intensity 15 minutes with both fighters thinking they had won, it was the Argentine who walked away with the win and is now 2-0 in the UFC octagon and has set himself up with a big fight later in the year as he targets the top 15.

The homecoming of a Brazilian hero was next up as Jose Aldo went up against Alexander Volkanovski. The Aussie knew that a win against Brazil’s own would put him right in line as Max Holloway’s next title defense. Volkanovski fought the perfect fight as he was constantly on the move with Aldo looking for that perfect punch to end the fight. With the fight being in Aldo’s backyard, Alexander needed to win convincingly and that he did. He saw out a unanimous decision victory and set’s up a title fight later in the year. Another Brazilian legend was next as UFC Future hall of famer Anderson Silva returned to Brazil for the first time in 7 years. He went up against Jared Cannonier who made his Middleweight debut late in 2018 and defeated David Branch. From the off, the leg kick was a go to move for the ‘Killa Gorilla’ and eventually after multiple kicks he grounded Silva who seem to injure his leg and Herb Dean stepped in straight away to give Cannonier the biggest win of his career.

Rose Namajunas was looking to defend her title in enemy territory as she faced Jessica Andrade for the Women’s Strawweight title. The first 5 minutes were dominated by the champions as she danced round Andrade’s aggressiveness and the Brazilian finished the round with a cut above her left eye. As the second round started, so did the pressure heavy style of Andrade. As the pair were grappling on the cage, Jessica picked Thug Rose up and dumped her on her head which knocked out Namajunas instanlty and Marc Goddard stepped in and with that Brazil had a new world champion. 3 of the 4 Women’s belts are held by a Brazilian as of right now.

 

Check out fellow pro’s reaction to a great night in Brazil 

Rose Namajunas vs Jessica Andrade

Anderson Silva vs Jared Cannonier

Jose Aldo vs Alexander Volkanovski

Thiago Alves vs Laureano Staropoli

Irene Aldana vs Bethe Correia

Check out the full results below 

Jessica Andrade def Rose Namajunas via KO (body slam) Round 2- 2:58

Jared Cannonier def Anderson Silva via TKO (leg injury) Round 1- 4:47

Alexander Volkanovski def Jose Aldo via Decision (unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Laureano Staropoli def Thiago Alves via Decision (unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

Irene Aldana def Bethe Correia via Submission (armbar) Round 3- 3:24

Triple Take: What to make of Jessica Andrade’s slam at UFC 237

Jessica Andrade became the new UFC strawweight champion after knocking out Rose Namajunas on Saturday night at UFC 237, but this wasn’t just any ol’ knockout. This was a slam knockout. 

For almost all of 7:58, Namajunas was piecing up Andrade with speed and combos that bloodied up her face. The performance had Daniel Cormier saying Namajunas was “putting on a master class” late in the first round. Then Round 2 began, and Andrade’s power became a factor. It proved to be the difference, too, as she countered a Kimura attempt with a huge slam – essentially a pile driver – that finished the fight. Namajunas was out the moment her head bounced off the canvas. 

Afterward, a social media debate ensued as to whether or not Andrade’s slam was legal, and “Big” John McCarthy was one of the first to set the record straight. But what do we make of the way the fight ended? MMA Junkie’s Ben Fowlkes, Fernanda Prates and Steven Marrocco sound off in this edition of “Triple Take.” 

Ben Fowlkes: That’s a legit victory, but I’m not sure it was convincing enough.

First of all, let me tell you what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to make the argument that Jessica Andrade didn’t deserve to win that fight, or that the mechanics of her slam were illegal or unfair. I’m not going to claim that she doesn’t deserve to be walking around with the UFC strawweight title right now, because she does.

What I will argue is this: Andrade was losing virtually every second of this fight – right up until she dumped Rose Namajunas on her head. It was an intentional move on her part, and an effectively violent one, but it was also sort of like the grappler’s version of the so-called “lucky” punch.

Which is to say, I’m not sure she could do it again if she had to, and I probably wouldn’t pick her in a rematch.

In fact, if I’m a strawweight contender in the UFC right now, I’m probably encouraged by this title turnover. Because the Namajunas we saw in the first seven minutes was downright scary. Her movement, her timing, the way she mixed up the strikes and landed cleanly both leading and countering, that was impressive stuff.

After getting sliced up and outstruck from the start, Andrade’s only chance was to bull her way in close and muscle her to the mat. And, honestly, that strategy could not have possibly gone any better.

Again, that still counts, and Andrade is still the champ. No one can take that away from her. But until she really puts the stamp on her title reign with a dominant defense, I’m going to have questions. I suspect I’m not the only one.

Next page – Fernanda Prates: An abrupt comeback seems unsatisfying, but it doesn’t take away from the win.

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