When Rose Namajunas earned a split-decision triumph against Jessica Andrade in their rematch at UFC 251, it appeared that she had solidified her spot as the No. 1 contender at 115 pounds.
However, it’s possible that “Thug” Rose won’t have a date in the Octagon with reigning strawweight champion Weili Zhang anytime soon. According to UFC president Dana White, Namajunas has balked at squaring off with Zhang next.
“What I’m hearing is Rose does not want a title shot. Rose does not want to fight for a title,” White told BT Sport.
In the past, Namajunas has openly contemplated retirement, particularly after relinquishing the 115-pound belt to Andrade in a slam knockout loss at UFC 237. Ultimately, the Louisiana native reconsidered and returned to vanquish Andrade in their rematch this past July. Still, Namajunas has been honest about the toll being a UFC champion took on her mentally, even as she prepared to return to the Octagon.
“I made it into everything I didn’t want it to be,” Namajunas said in November 2019. “I didn’t want the belt to define me, and all I did was make it define me. That was all that was on my mind every day. Even though it was not even in my own house. It just consumed my every thought. It turned into a shackle and chain rather than just loving fighting.
“Do I want to be the best? Of course. But I don’t need a belt to tell me that I’m the best. I already know. It was like, weird. It was all of my fears and all of the things I didn’t want to happen ended up happening by just fearing it so much.”
And now it appears that she might be bypassed for a title shot because of similar feelings.
“I don’t think she did [like the pressure of being champion],” White said. “We’ll see how that all plays out. If you look at the rankings and how it plays out, it would play out Weili vs. Carla Esparza.”
Meanwhile, Namajunas’ fiance and coach, Pat Barry, denied that the fighter had turned down a title shot against Zhang, which could mean that White’s remarks are a public negotiating ploy.
“That is absolutely not true. We absolutely want the title fight,” Barry told ESPN. “Who would turn down a title fight? We just don’t want to air this out publicly. If there was some confusion they can call us to clear it up.”