UFC 251: Rose Namajunas Explains “Mentality Shift” Ahead of Return

Turns out, Rose Namajunas is one of those fighters who has been training at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Prior to the corona pandemic, I made a gym out of my garage. Just been like, slowly using it here and there. Then when the pandemic hit, it really came into full use,” the fighter known as ‘Thug Rose’ explained. That, and a bit of travel, made up her camp ahead of UFC 251. That card, which goes down Saturday, will see her go up against the woman who defeated her to take the UFC’s strawweight title: Jessica Andrade.

Namajunas tackled a number of subjects at Wednesday’s UFC 251 media day online session. It was the second of three media days for the event, which kicks off the “Fight Island” series in Abu Dhabi. Among the topics her fight being moved, under dire circumstances, from its original date at UFC 249. Namajunas at least found a silver lining.

“It actually was the best thing that happened for me, just to get a reset,” she replied when asked about the delay between the fight’s original date in April, and this coming weekend. “I was already ready for that fight, but I think having a little bit of extra time made me realize a couple more things that I needed to realize, and I feel great now.”

One of those things she needed was confidence. “I have much more genuine confidence, like real confidence, based on my preparation, not just based on what I did before,” said Namajunas. Her technical game was patched up as well, she added. “Overall, it’s the mentality, it comes from the preparation. I think that’s the biggest difference.”

Namajunas (8-4) has not fought since her first fight with Andrade, in 2019. The mental journey back has been a long one. “I had to stop thinking about fighting for a minute, because I wasn’t super interested in it at the moment. Even though I did want to fight more often, there was just something that was missing in my life, in my personal life.”

That prompted a trip to Lithuania, where Namajunas reconnected with family. She also traveled to Minnesota, and got back in touch with an old coach. “I did some other things on the side, but really just getting back to enjoying life again. And not worrying so much about penny-pinching, and just looking for adventure more rather than thinking about money so much, and finances.”

It turned out to be what Namajunas called a “mentality shift.” She went through what she acknowledged was “a blaming game,” pointing fingers everywhere else, before realizing that “I needed to fix certain things in myself. That’s kind of where it started. Then everything else around me started to fall into place. Now here I am, a few days out, ready to put on my best performance.”

Namajunas never mentioned the source of her financial concerns during her virtual media scrum Wednesday. But it’s an interesting side note, given two other fighters on the card, Jorge Masvidal and Paige VanZant, have butted heads with the promotion over compensation recently.

In the midst of a global pandemic and civil unrest stateside, Namajunas was also asked about the various social movements around the globe, including Black Lives Matter. And while she supports the movement, there’s a different one that has her attention.

“My mission is to become the world’s greatest farmer. That might sound silly, but that’s what I’m using martial arts for,” Namajunas said. “That’s what I feel like I’m going to use my influence to really promote — sustainable farming and the martial arts lifestyle. I think those two things can really save the planet, in addition to bringing us all together.”

UFC 251 takes place this Saturday, July 11 on Fight Island (Yas Island) in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs live on PPV.