Milwaukee native and two-time UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion Rose Namajunas is scheduled to go toe-to-toe with a familiar foe, Carla Esparza, at UFC 274 taking place Saturday, May 7 at 9 p.m. in Phoenix.
Namajunas chatted with 101.7 The Truth’s Tory Lowe about her upcoming fight; expounding on her upbringing, her love for mixed martial arts and her hometown.
Namajunas grew up on the northside of Milwaukee, where she got her nickname, “Thug,” before moving out west to train. She got the nickname after “developing a demeanor and attitude” due to her getting picked on for her “timid appearance and unassuming nature.”
She uses her tough upbringing as fuel in the octagon.
Namajunas knew she found a passion with fighting when she was just a small child play fighting with other children.
“I’ve been a martial artist my whole life,” Namajunas said. “Growing up we would always just play fight all the time and just practice fight in general. It’s something I was always doing and then I stumbled across a gym. Duke Roufus’ [Roufusport] has a gym in Milwaukee and I met bunch of people there who did it professionally who are still in my corner.”
She expressed her admiration for Milwaukee and the people that live here and highlighted the mental hinderance; that from her experience, seems to plague the city.
“For me, my experience in Milwaukee,” Namajunas said, “I think there’s a sentiment that maybe we put ourselves lower than what we think in our minds, as far as talent and skills….It’s just a matter of believing in yourself. The city has so much, so many special people and so many really just talented individuals. Growing that and feeding that, anything’s possible.”
However, all eyes are primed and ready for the May 7 showdown against Carla Esparza. A competitor the then-inexperienced Namajunas has lost to before. This time though, she’s entering the bout as a different beast.
“With this fight,” Namajunas said, “I’m definitely coming with a different strategy, a different head on my shoulders. I’m way more mature and experienced. It’s going to be just sticking to the game plan, being consistent and disciplined that’s going to win this fight.”
Namajunas said she doesn’t like the word “legacy” because she feels it’s like idolatry in a way; worshipping someone for their accomplishments. She said her legacy will be the fact that God allowed her to be in the position to help others through her accolades and notoriety.
“Legacy doesn’t have to just be wins and accomplishments. It’s what you can do with those accomplishments to help other people.”