By Adrien Meehan, 5/27/18– Along with her fighting credentials, current strawweight UFC Champion, ‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas is known for her bold buzzcut and bringing her emotional support dog, Mishka, to the gym. She has a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a black belt in Karate, and a black belt in Taekwondo. However, the media rarely mentions the challenges Namajunas overcame to get where she is today.
Namajunas grew up as a small kid of immigrant parents in a violent Milwaukee neighborhood, where being tough was basic self preservation that earned her the nickname of ‘Thug’ Rose. Namajunas faced challenges at home as well – her father was diagnosed with schizophrenia and died when she was 16. In addition to growing up in a tough neighborhood and dealing with her father’s mental illness, Namajunas was sexually abused throughout her childhood.
Namajunas started Taekwondo at 5 years old and earned her junior black belt by age 9. She used martial arts as a means of mental escape from her circumstances. She wrestled competitively and started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Karate in high school. After winning her first four amateur MMA fights, Namajunas started to realize that MMA could become her career. Her professional fight record now stands at 8 wins, 3 losses. But her journey there was not easy.
Namajunas said that when she first started fighting, her energy came from a place of hate. It took her bout with Carla Esparza to realize she need to change her approach; Namajunas went into the fight with no plan and full of anger.
After her loss to Esparza, Namajunas learned to approach her fights with strategy – she now says she fights from a place of love.
While Joanna Jedrzejczyk slung insults, questioned Namajunas’ mental health, and tried to provoke her throughout the lead-up to the UFC 217 Strawweight Title bout, Namajunas remained calm and polite, expressing to interviewers her intent to use her martial arts talents to “make the world a better place.”
Namajunas asserts that the pre-fight hostilities with Jedrzejczyk made her stronger.
She used her discomfort with her father’s diagnosis with schizophrenia and Jedrzejczyk’s insults as motivation to study mental health.
She is now comfortable with her own state of mind, using mantras to help her through training and keep her motivated during fights. For balance and tranquility, she gardens and spends time with her emotional therapy dog, Mishka.
Namajunas fights for the money – but not how you think.
She has dreamed of being a farmer ever since kindergarten. She is inspired by her grandmothers who grow all the food they need on their farm in Lithuania. Once she earns enough money from professional fighting, Namajunas plans to establish urban gardens to allow city-dwellers to grow their own food.
Namajunas has overcome trial after trial, proving herself to be a strong fighter both inside the cage and out. It is time to recognize her for her personal strengths and accomplishments – not just for her haircut.
Editor’s Note: BrooklynFights reached out to Namajunas for her insights, but we did not receive a response.