Nojus Namajunas is set to make fighting a family business.
The older brother of former UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas, Nojus is set to join the professional MMA ranks at Mountain Force MMA 23 on March 27.
“I’m super excited,” Namajunas said in an interview with MMA Junkie. “It’s been a long time coming for me, actually.”
Namajunas first delved into martial arts at the age of 6. With his then 4-year old sister beside him, Namajunas attended his first taekwondo lesson from Great Grandmaster Chom Son Cho in Milwaukee.
“(Cho) had us all line up in a row,” Namajunas said. “… He went all down the line. He would have us line up shoulder-to-shoulder all the way. He would go up to us and punch right in front of our faces, like an inch in front of our eyes. The idea was that you couldn’t blink when something is coming at you, so you could see, you know? That blink: If you blinked, you had to go do 10 pushups on your knuckles. He just did that for the whole class for the whole hour. We were just doing pushups until we figured it out.”
After taking taekwondo lessons for seven years, Namajunas grew tired of what he perceived as gym politics and walked away from the sport. He went on to become a musician, owning a piano studio and teaching over 40 students. However, spending the last few years watching Rose rise through the UFC ranks and ultimately achieve her goal of becoming champion inspired Namajunas to give MMA another shot.
“When she got on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ show, I thought that was really awesome because that was her chance,” Namajunas said. “That was her big break. She took that far. She took it all the way to a title shot. She lost that fight against Carla (Esparza), and from there, for some reason – I told her because I was actually at that fight; she was only like 22 – I was like, ‘Rose, you’re only 22. You’re so young. You don’t even get your full adult brain until you’re 26.’ That’s the main thing, that in my mind was inspiring because she was so young and she was already at the pinnacle of the sport.”
Wanting to see what would happen if he gave martial arts his full effort, he moved out to Denver and began training again.
“All my life, I’ve been a fighter in my heart,” Namajunas said. “I’ve had to use self-defense in real situations and stuff like that. Not only that, I’ve been around it and watched it and learned a lot. Once I started to train it, I started to perform pretty (well) in the gym and I was like, ‘Well, if these guys are pros and I’m doing it here with them, I should just try to commit myself and make a run for it.’”
Namajunas took part in his first amateur MMA fight in March 2019, losing by split decision. Undeterred, he returned to the cage six months later and picked up a 57-second knockout. At 31, he’s now making the jump to the pro ranks knowing that his window of opportunity is closing.
“Most people that are 30, yeah, they’re not going to make it to the UFC,” Namajunas said. “The odds are against me. I really do believe in myself and I think I can go really, really far if I’m just doing what I’m doing right now. We’ll see how far I can get, but I do have aspirations to go to the UFC and do everything that I can to get to the top.”
Four weeks after Namajunas makes his pro debut in Utah, Rose will challenge for a UFC belt for the third time in her career. She challenges Zhang Weili for the strawweight championship at UFC 261, which will see American fans return to the arena for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdown. Nojus Namajunas predicts his family will go 2-for-2 during the stretch.
“She’s going to finish her, dude,” Namajunas said. “… (And) I’m going to go for the choke.”
Do you think we could see Nojus Namajunas in the UFC one day?