Rose Namajunas lost the strawweight belt 14 months ago, and considered retiring. Then she reconsidered. Then COVID-19.
"Thug Rose" was scheduled to rematch Jessica Andrade at UFC 249 in April; "Bate Estaca" had lost her title to Zhang Weili in August of 2019. COVID-19 forced the rematch to reschedule to May 19, and then Namajunas lost two family members within a seven-day period to the novel coronavirus, and withdrew.
"They came down with it. They got put on ventilators and shortly, in a few days, it just happened like that. Passed away," explained Namajunas to Ariel Helwani for ESPN. "As a fighter ... we deal with the worst, we face death in the face all the time ... or just serious injuries and things like that. So, for the whole world to get shut down for a virus at first seemed like, 'What is this?' We didn't even know it was real. And then it hit home, and it was close to family. It scared me. It shook me up a little bit."
"Everybody deals with death differently. For me, it just wasn't a great idea [to fight]. In a way, it has been a reset for me. It puts things into perspective. Before I was just trying to control everything around me and trying to make all these situations perfect and then everything just fell apart."
"It just was a wake-up call for me. I can't control anything but myself, and that's what's the most important. Even though it was very tragic, I learned a lot from it. That's all we can do. Keep praying and know this life is temporary. Everything is temporary, not everyone is the same, but what helps me is believing in my higher power and knowing that I have a purpose, and [fighting] is my purpose right now. It's not going to be my purpose forever, but this is what I'm doing right now, and I got to make the most of it and enjoy it."
Now Namajunas, just turned 28, rematches Andrade at UFC 251 on July 11 at Fight Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
"There's always things to gripe and complain about, but this is what I love to do, man," said Namajunas. "I'm a martial artist. I'm just pretty much hitting my prime right now, and it seems like everything, all of a sudden, is coming together.
"I don't know why, but ever since I turned 26, I think I just dealt with ... becoming an adult was kind of difficult. Losing my title and all of that sad s***, all of that ungratefulness and bitterness, I just went through a lot of different stages, and I just kind grew to understand some things. Everything is temporary, so you just kind of have to live in the moment and enjoy yourself as much as possible."
"I don't miss the way that I felt as a champion, but I do miss having that belt, though. When you get up and it's your turn to dance but you ain't ready, you ain't got your moves right, everybody is looking at you -- that's kind of what it felt like. You feel like everyone is staring at you. That's kind of like how it felt."
"This has been one of my more fun training camps. It's kind of weird. The amount of days that I didn't look forward to training has been very seldom, so that is something I am very happy about."