Dubai: When Rose Namajunas takes on Jessica Andrade in hotly anticipated women’s strawweight rematch at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi on Sunday morning she will not only be looking to rescue her career but to endorse her reputation as the “world’s greatest farmer”.
The 28-year-old former world No. 1, who suffered a brutal overhead slam KO in the second round by Andrade at UFC 237 last year in Rio, believes she has rediscovered her “real” confidence to set the record straight against her opponent, the current World No 2.
“My mission is to become the world’s greatest farmer. That might sound silly, but that’s what I’m using martial arts for,” Namajunas said during a virtual media day in Abu Dhabi.
“That’s what I feel like I’m going to use my influence to really promote — sustainable farming and the martial arts lifestyle. I think those two things can really save the planet, in addition to bringing us all together.”
Namajunas (UFC 8-6-2) admitted that the loss to Andrade in 2019 almost forced a retirement and made her lose interest in a sport that had done so much for her since she made her debut in 2013.
“I had to stop thinking about fighting for a minute, because I wasn’t super interested in it,” said the fighter who was born to Lithuanian parents in Milwaukee.
“Even though I did want to fight more often, there was just something that was missing in my life, in my personal life. I needed to fix certain things in myself. That’s kind of where it started. Then everything else around me started to fall into place. Now here I am, a few days out, ready to put on my best performance.
“I have much more genuine confidence, like real confidence, based on my preparation, not just based on what I did before.
“Overall, it’s the mentality, it comes from the preparation. I think that’s the biggest difference.”
Namajunas also recognises that this fight has the potential to be career-defining with several contenders lining up to take on the reigning World No. 1. China’s Weili Zhang who shocked the world with a first round KO over Andrade at UFC Fight Night 157.
This is also a massively important bout for the women’s strawweight division, which boasts a resume of top fighters led by Joanna Jedrzejczy, Tatiana Suarez, Claudia Gadelha and Carla Esparaza.
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UFC 251’s star-studded card also features a women’s featherweight match-up between the sport’s pin-up girl Paige VanZant and Amanda Ribas.
There will also be three title fights on the main card.
In the main event, Kamaru Usman puts his UFC welterweight belt on the line against late replacement Jorge Masvidal, while Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski defends his UFC featherweight title against Hawaiian Max Holloway and Petr Yan and Jose Aldo battle for the UFC bantamweight title, recently vacated by Henry Cejudo.