Rose Namajunas didn’t enjoy being a champion — however, she did enjoy having the belt.

Namajunas returns to action for the first time since May last year when she takes on Jessica Andrade in a rematch at UFC 251 on July 11. On that previous occasion, Namajunas suffered a second-round knockout defeat to Andrade to lose her women’s strawweight title.

It turned out to be somewhat of a relief in the end as despite becoming a champion at 25 by knocking out Joanna Jedrzejczyk, being the strawweight queen wasn’t what Namajunas envisioned.

“I don’t know why, but ever since I turned 26, I think I just dealt with … becoming an adult was kind of difficult,” Namajunas told ESPN. “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.

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“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.”

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Namajunas has gone through a lot in recent months, including losing family to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

That said, it was a wake-up call for “Thug” who has regained the passion for the sport that she loves.

“I love this sport,” she said. “There’s always things to gripe and complain about, but this is what I love to do, man. 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.

“It seemed like everything was falling apart. Sometimes, things have to crumble down before you have to put them back together again.”

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Zhang vs. Namajunas?

A win over Andrade would not only earn Namajunas revenge over the Brazilian, but also possibly set her up for a title fight with current champion Weili Zhang.

It’s a bout Zhang has spoken of recently as well and Namajunas would love to fight the Chinese superstar.

“I’d love to fight her one day,” Namajunas added. “She’s a true martial artist and like, she’s the sh*t.”

How do you think Namajunas will perform in her return? And would you like to see her face Zhang in the future?

Experienced freelance sports writer covering mixed martial arts (MMA) extensively for the last few years. Likes a good body shot.