UFC fighter Rose Namajunas’ personal and professional lives have collided multiple times with COVID-19 during the last few months. Initially scheduled to fight Jessica Andrade in a rematch on April 9, UFC postponed the event, and all fights as the promotion closed down its operations like the rest of the sports world due to the pandemic.
The UFC rescheduled the fight for May 9. Then, COVID-19 struck Namajunas again but in a much more personal way. Two members in her family contracted the virus and tragically died. Her mourning incomplete, Namajunas now has a new purpose she takes to Fight Island.
Rose Namajunas’ rise in the UFC
When Rose Namajunas signed with the UFC, she knew it would put her to the test. And that’s exactly what happened. She joined the promotion in 2013 for the 20th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which was a tournament of 10 strawweights competing for the first-ever UFC strawweight title.
Namajunas won her first three bouts of the tournament via submission, including a pair of kimuras. In the final, she faced Carla Esparza. It was a close contest, but Esparza pulled off the victory in the third round with a rear-naked choke.
Unable to capture the inaugural crown, Namajunas refocused her efforts and won seven out of her next eight UFC matches, including capturing the strawweight title at UFC 217 in a stunning first-round upset of Joanna Jędrzejczyk. Namajunas faced off against Jędrzejczyk six months later in a rematch and held on to win by unanimous decision. Then, she met Andrade.
Rose Namajunas vs. Jessica Andrade 1 was a classic
The main event matchup at UFC 237 between Rose Namajunas and Brazilian Jessica Andrade started off strong for the Wisconsin native. In the first round, Namajunas displayed her superior speed and technique against her opponent. She used both to her advantage, peppering Andrade with a flurry of combinations, which included a powerful knee that dropped the challenger.
The second round started off much the same. Most watching believed Namajunas looked destined to retain her title. But that’s what makes UFC and sports, in general, so entertaining — momentum can change in an instant. And did it ever change in the second round.
After the pair traded blows for the first couple of minutes, Andrade drove Namajunas into the fence, where she got leverage on her, picked her up, and slammed her down. Namajunas landed straight on her head and was knocked unconscious. Just like that, her championship reign was over.
Rose Namajunas dealing with tragic deaths in family from COVID-19
That was May 2019. Rose Namajunas hasn’t stepped back into the Octagon for a competition since. The UFC scheduled the rematch with Andrade for April 9, but the pandemic had already shut down the UFC and all sports. A new date was set for a month later.
On May 9, the UFC was the first sport in the U.S. to officially return to action after pausing for the pandemic. Rose Namajunas was not there. She had withdrawn days earlier after two of her family members contracted COVID-19 and both died several days later.
“They were living in a hot spot where COVID-19 was,” Namajunas told ESPN. “They came down with it. They got put on ventilators and shortly [after], in a few days, it just happened like that. Passed away.”
Namajunas said, initially, the deaths “shook me up a little bit.” Despite both tragedies, she said it taught her a valuable life lesson.
“Even though it was very tragic, I learned a lot from it. That’s all we can do. Keep praying and know this life is temporary. Everything is temporary, not everyone is the same, but what helps me is believing in my higher power and knowing that I have a purpose and this my purpose right now. It’s not going to be my purpose forever, but this is what I’m doing right now, and I got to make the most of it and enjoy it.”
Namajunas has the right attitude this time around against Andrade. Everyone knows she has the talent. Now it’s a matter of whether or not she can put the two together in the Octagon. If she can, she’ll return back to the U.S. as the new strawweight champion.