A pivotal contest in the women’s strawweight division is set to get underway in the co-main event of UFC 201 this Saturday (July 30, 2016), when No. 3-ranked Rose Namajunas clashes with the undefeated No. 5-ranked Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Namajunas, a former 115-pound title challenger after losing to Carla Esparza for the inaugural strap, is on an impressive three-fight win streak as of late, and is looking to put a stamp on her recent run with a win over Kowalkiewicz in order to campaign for a shot at the gold once again.
Current champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, however, is picking against ‘Thug’ come Saturday night, stating that Namajunas is not always mentally strong while Kowalkiewicz continues to push forward:
“I think Rose, sometimes, is lost,” Jedrzejczyk said. “Her head is not [always] strong. She’s not always mentally strong. I think Karolina might win this fight because she’s always going forward. I don’t know. But if Rose wins, she’d deserve a title shot.”
While Namajunas’ ultimate goal is to one day hoist the coveted strawweight title above her head, she is careful to not overlook Kowalkiewicz the way the media and fans seem to be doing ahead of their UFC 201 date:
“Non-stop, every day people are asking me about it,” Namajunas told ESPN. “It is what it is, I guess. Media is not with you every day, so they end up being 10 pages ahead of you. They’re always saying, ‘When is the next story, when is the next headline?’ Everyone is jumping way ahead and I’m not even at this fight yet.”
Following Namajunas’ remarks of being “done crying, done not sleeping at night” after her contest with Tecia Torres, ‘Thug’s’ head-coach Trevor Wittman decided it was time to pull her fiancé, and former UFC competitor, Pat Barry back from camp in attempt to give the No. 3-ranked strawweight a bit more focus heading into her contest:
“I always say, when you get the families involved, there’s an emotional tie,” Wittman said. “My father, when I used to play baseball, he would stand behind the cage and there was always this distraction because I’m so emotionally involved with my father.
“Having that emotional involvement is too much assessment. I think we ran into that with the last fight. He’s a very emotional guy, it’s a little much high energy.
It’s a cool thing, getting her hyped up, but on an energy level we needed to keep it focused. One thing, when it comes to a corner, when you’re speaking high or speaking low, you always want to be able to assess the energy of a fight.
Sometimes a coach needs to cool you down, sometimes a coach needs to wake you up, sometimes a coach needs to piss you off. But when there’s non-stop, high energy, that makes you fight non-stop high energy.
I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing, but at this level we needed to have everything toned in.”
‘Thug’ had predicted on The Ultimate Fighter 20 (TUF 20) that she would be the champion come ‘2015 or 2016’, however, she feels now that her words may have affected her mentally. Now, however, Namajunas claims she is feeling more and more like a champion each and every day:
“When I was on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ [in 2014], I said I’d be champion in either 2015 or 2016,” Namajunas said.
“I think maybe, by saying 2015 but not committing to it, I opened the possibility, mentally, of coming close but not achieving it.
I’m waking up every day feeling like a champion now, but there are steps to it. I’m taking this day by day.”
Namajunas will meet Kowalkiewicz in the co-main event of UFC 201, which takes place live on pay-per-view (PPV) from the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia this weekend on July 30, 2016.