Once again, I am proud to bring to the UG another exclusive interview. This one features undefeated pro WMMA fighter, “Thug” Rose Namajunas. She is currently fighting in the strawweight (115 lbs) division for Invicta FC. The 20-year-old Namajunas is already garnering a lot of attention for her exciting fighting style. She has also become well known as the girlfriend of UFC heavyweight veteran, Pat Barry.
Just as I did with Dan Hardy for my first interview, I direct messaged Rose on Twitter with a simple question: “I'm doing a series of 10-question Twitter interviews to be posted on the UG. Would you be interested?” Rose replied with “Sure” and a smiley face. And that’s just how I pictured Rose as we exchanged the messages below over the course of two days – a confident young fighter with a smile on her face, a knowing smile. You’ll see from her answers that Rose has seen a lot, knows a lot, and has many dreams. Younger than I, she taught me a few things, and I thank her for that. Enjoy.
Jack Brown: What was the first martial art that you started with, and when and where did you start it?
Rose Namajunas: I started Tae Kwon Do when I was 5 in Milwaukee, WI. I got my black belt at 9, then started karate at 11, where we also did Jiu-Jitsu and stick fighting. In high school I started kickboxing/MMA with Duke Roufus, and wrestled senior year. Now I'm training with Greg Nelson in Minnesota.
JB: What were the circumstances for your first ever martial arts/fighting competition and how did you fare?
RN: I've done countless karate tournaments since day one but nothing that sticks out in my mind. I do remember competing in the World Pankration Tournament in Portugal in 2008. I fought 3 times and won them all, and after, one of the coaches from the Russian team tried hooking me up with his son. It was weird.
JB: What fight was your best performance thus far and what sets it apart from the others?
RN: That's always the hardest question because I could make a case for any one of my fights. My last one however was a successful pro debut in Invicta, a finish against a person who on paper was supposed to beat me. There were some things I could've done better. I wish I could've showcased my striking more, but it's how it goes sometimes.
JB: What did you do the rest of that weekend after your first pro victory?
RN: OH YOU DON’T WANNA KNOW! Just kidding. No really, Pat and I don't do much partying unless we have to. We like to just sit on the couch and chill, go outside, simple stuff. After recovering we went to the MMA awards show, which was cool since it was the first time Pat had seen me in a fancy dress and I’d seen him in a suit!
JB: How did you and Pat meet and what was your first impression of him?
RN: I didn’t know who he was, but when I first saw him, I knew he was something special, definitely a surreal feeling. Regardless, we didn’t speak to each other. I made an effort to keep to myself and not speak to ANYONE in that gym. But eventually he chipped away at this cold ice heart. One day we sparred, I punched him in the face, and I think that's when he fell in love!
JB: Do you currently have any involvement in Pat’s training and how do you feel about his fighting style?
RN: I train with him mostly when he isn’t in training camp. We push each other. It’s like a chess game. He always has to stay one step ahead of me, but I catch on quick so he has to stay on his toes! I really like his fighting style. His striking is like Mike Tyson and his kicks come from all angles. His kicks are scary powerful. His Jiu-Jitsu is unorthodox, but highly underrated. I have watched his striking and have tried to mimic the way he moves.
JB: I’m ignorant when it comes to Lithuania. I know where it is, but what can you tell me about the culture of Lithuania?
RN: Lithuanians are very proud of their culture from years of Russian oppression during the Soviet Union. They are simple people who love basketball and nature. Nature is very important due to the fact we were the last Pagan country in Europe before turning Catholic. When I visited family, we would just walk through the forest and eat wild blueberries, strawberries, and gather mushrooms to make dinner! It’s very different from American fast food. The language is very old and unique. Also, common dishes include potatoes, cabbage, beets, barley, greens, berries, and mushrooms. If you want to learn more about Lithuania, watch the documentary called “The Other Dream Team.”
JB: What long-term goals do you have beyond fighting?
RN: After fighting I’d love to teach any martial arts I learned or sports I’ve played. I also have a love for nature and animals. If I had a farm or cottage that would be a dream come true. Also, to help others that are in need in some way, like abusive situations or anything like that, would be very rewarding. I just don’t want my life to go to waste not making this a better place for other people and for the family I want to have in the future.
JB: Invicta FC seems to have a pretty deep roster of strawweights (17 listed on their website at the moment). Is there anybody on there that you have trained with? Is there anybody you’d like to fight?
RN: I haven’t trained with any of them yet. I know a few personally. They are all cool girls. I’d enjoy fighting any of them, but for their own individual reasons. No two fighters are the same so they each present their own unique challenges!
JB: Last question, Rose, and it has been an honor and a pleasure to talk with you. You seem to have lived many lives already. What experiences have contributed most to making you who you are today?
RN: That’d take years to answer completely, but I’ll give it a shot! I’ve experienced some whack situations that I’m sure many others could relate to. My parents escaped the Soviet Union as refugees to America, but my father couldn’t be in my life because of his schizophrenia and died when I was 16. My mom did everything to take care of my brother and me. I’ve witnessed everything in my neighborhood and schools - robbery, arson, homicide, abuse, and even suicide. I don’t want to sound like a sob story, but “to live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in the suffering.” I’ve also had as many good experiences as bad and now I’m with the love of my life. If everyone felt this way, there wouldn’t be wars or sadness.
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