Rose Namajunas‘ final struggle was almost 14 months in the past.

On that night time, in Brazil, she misplaced her strawweight title in dramatic trend when she was knocked out following a slam by Jessica Andrade, Namajunas’ upcoming opponent in UFC 251 on July 11.

After that loss in Might 2019, Namajunas stated she may by no means struggle once more. Six months later, in an emotional interview, she instructed ESPN she determined to maintain on preventing in spite of everything.

The unique plan was for the fan favourite, nicknamed “Thug Rose,” to return to motion at UFC 249 on April 18 towards Andrade, however the coronavirus pandemic stalled these plans.

The bout was ultimately moved to Might 9, however Namajunas finally withdrew after two of her members of the family died after contracting the coronavirus.

“They had been residing in a scorching spot the place COVID-19 was,” Namajunas instructed ESPN in the course of the lead-up to UFC 251. “They got here down with it. They received placed on ventilators and shortly [after], in just a few days, it simply occurred like that. Handed away.

“… As a fighter, we cope with [many things]. I had MRSA earlier than. We cope with the worst [things], we face dying within the face on a regular basis … or simply critical accidents and issues like that. So, for the entire world to get shut down for a virus at first appeared like, ‘What is that this?’ We did not even understand it was actual. After which it hit residence, and it was near household. It scared me. It shook me up a bit bit.”

Namajunas stated the deaths occurred about seven days aside. She determined to tug out of the rematch shortly thereafter.

“Everyone offers with dying otherwise,” she stated. “For me, it simply wasn’t an ideal thought [to fight]. In a means, it has been a reset for me. It places issues into perspective. Earlier than I used to be simply attempting to regulate every thing round me and attempting to make all these conditions good after which every thing simply fell aside.

“All the things was wanting good after which every thing simply fell aside. It simply was a wake-up name for me. I can not management something however myself, and that is what’s crucial [thing]. Regardless that it was very tragic, I realized rather a lot from it. That is all we are able to do. Preserve praying and know this life is non permanent. All the things is non permanent, not everybody is identical, however what helps me is believing in my greater energy and understanding that I’ve a goal and this my goal proper now. It isn’t going to be my goal eternally, however that is what I am doing proper now, and I received to profit from it and revel in it.”

And so Namajunas lastly returns to motion towards Andrade at UFC 251 on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. She stated she initially did not love the thought of preventing abroad once more, however contemplating her newfound curiosity in faith, she now likes the thought of preventing within the Center East.

She additionally appears to have regained her ardour for blended martial arts after falling out of affection with it as champion.

“I really like this sport,” she stated. “There’s all the time issues to gripe and complain about, however that is what I like to do, man. I am a martial artist. I am simply just about hitting my prime proper now, and it looks like every thing, abruptly, is coming collectively.

“It appeared like every thing was falling aside. Generally, issues must crumble down earlier than you need to put them again collectively once more.”

Namajunas celebrated her 28th birthday Monday. She received the strawweight belt as a 25-year-old in November 2017 when she scored a first-round TKO over then-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in dramatic trend at Madison Sq. Backyard. She would win the rematch 5 months later, however being champion did not show to be as nice of an expertise as she thought it might be. She ultimately misplaced the belt to Andrade.

“I do not know why, however ever since I turned 26, I feel I simply handled … changing into an grownup was form of tough,” she stated. “Shedding my title and all of that unhappy s—, all of that ungratefulness and bitterness, I simply went via loads of completely different phases, and I simply type grew to grasp some issues.

“All the things is non permanent, so that you simply form of must dwell within the second and revel in your self as a lot as potential.”

Just lately, present strawweight champion Zhang Weili instructed ESPN that she wish to struggle Namajunas sooner or later. Namajunas is aware of that struggle will come, however she is not targeted on the belt proper now.

“I do not miss the way in which that I felt as a champion,” she stated, “however I do miss having that belt, although.

“Whenever you stand up and it is your flip to bop however you ain’t prepared, you ain’t received your strikes proper, everyone is you — that is form of what it felt like. You’re feeling like everyone seems to be watching you. That is form of like the way it felt.”

However issues are completely different now for Namajunas, she stated. She’s a bit older, a bit wiser, and seems to be in nice spirits as she seems to finish the longest layoff of her skilled profession subsequent weekend towards the lady who dethroned her greater than a 12 months in the past in Rio de Janeiro.

“This has been one in all my extra enjoyable coaching camps,” she stated. “It is form of bizarre. The quantity of days that I did not look ahead to coaching has been very seldom, so that’s one thing I’m very joyful about.”