Rose Namajunas is riding high after mauling Paige VanZant en route to a submission victory and performance bonus in the main event at UFC Fight Night 80 on December 10th. Despite Namajunas emerging as one of the more popular fighters on the UFC roster, at this time of writing there is no Rose Namajunas fight kit available from Reebok's official website. Nor has there been since at least the night of her VanZant victory.
What fighters really think about the Reebok deal
Bloody Elbow's Iain Kidd conducted a fighter survey about the Reebok Deal and how it will affect them financially.
When asked about the situation, Namajunas told Bloody Elbow that she had not heard from the UFC or Reebok, but had heard about the issue from other sources. "I've had some fans reach out and say, ‘What the hell is up with this?'", said Namajunas. "I don't know what's going on with that, I guess it kinda sucks."
The Reebok deal pays fighters a percentage of the sales of their unique fight kits, according to a report by Marc Raimondi on MMA Fighting from May 6th, 2015.
Asked her opinions on Reebok's personal sponsorships with fighters such as Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor, and whether such a deal would be of interest to her, Namajunas expressed a wish to instead focus on what she can control inside and out of the cage.
"I'm just here to show up and fight, and then get my money and go home," said Namajunas. "It's really hard to know, especially when you're in the spotlight, and when you have all these distractions around you, it's hard to know when you're getting screwed over with that (laughs). So to me, knowing that, yeah I know I'm probably getting screwed over, in some way, shape or form, whether it be this or something else.
"That's why I've got a manager, that's why I've got so many people around me to catch as much s**t as they can. But it's really hard and you know, at the same time, I can't really focus on that too much. I focus on the positive. I gotta put my trust in other people to check these things when they come up. All I can do is make sure I show up to fight, and then they have no choice but to pay me."
Namajunas's manager Josh Jones of KHI Management has reached out the UFC regarding Namajunas' lack of representation on Reebok's site, but he has yet to receive an explanation.
Namajunas is not the only fighter whose name does not appear in Reebok.com's "Find Your Fighter" search bar. Others not listed (at this time of writing) include Alistair Overeem, Jon Jones, Kelvin Gastelum, Sarah Kaufman, Tecia Torres, and Roy Nelson.
Namajunas' star is on the rise thanks primarily to her stellar showing against VanZant. Many observers felt it was Namajunas' best performance to date and ‘Thug Rose' doesn't disagree, stating: "Everything I did in that fight was perfect for that moment."
The key to victory for Namajunas' team was an intelligent scouting report on VanZant. They decided that VanZant's striking was focused around forcing a clinch situation. For example, they predicted that '12 Gauge' would throw kicks to bait Namajunas in close and then attempt a head toss.
"I worked on nullifying that and using my boxing, setting up my jab and just being patient with my strikes," said Namajunas. "And on the ground I'm always just working on creating space - not just working on the jiu-jitsu moves, but working in the strikes with it. I'm just trying to create a constant flow and trying to keep up with that pace for a long time, never get discouraged, and move from position to position to position and never stay in one spot."
Namajunas is quick to credit those around her for her recent success. She states that Grudge Training Center's Trevor Wittman and 303 Training Center's Tony Basile have taken her game to "another level." As have her training partners, who include Invicta prospect J.J. Aldrich, WSOF champion Justin Gaethje, and Bellator contender Brandon Girtz. However, Namajunas' ultimate appreciation and affection is reserved for her partner, former UFC fan favorite Pat Barry.
"Pat has been number one in my development - not just as a fighter, but as a human being, and as a lover, and as, you know, best friend, and things like that. He's definitely been more resourceful and more beneficial than people can imagine."
With her team Namajunas believes she is improving technically and physically, but the mental game is where she feels she has made some of the greatest strides in the last year.
"I'm just a very impatient person," admitted Namajunas. "It's always something that I'm working on, and just staying interested in the fight game is the biggest challenge for me. As long as I'm interested and I have an incentive to stay interested, then I'm unbeatable."
Though Namajunas doesn't have a fight currently lined up, she is keen and interested in the state of her current division. Following the announcement that champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk will rematch Claudia Gadelha as part of the forthcoming Ultimate Fighter series, Namajunas has a message for the UFC brass.
"If one of them happens to pull out I'd definitely be more than willing to step in for them."
Regarding other opponents, Namajunas is clear - she wants whatever fight gets her to the title quickest. Some have suggested re-matching Tecia Torres. Namajunas is game, but would prefer fighting for the title. Earlier this month Joanne Calderwood stated her desire to rematch Namajunas (whom she fought in the Ultimate Fighter competition). Namajunas is less jazzed about this match-up.
"That doesn't make sense to me," she stated. "I think she needs to have one more fight, maybe to display some sort of jiu-jitsu defense game. It just doesn't make sense to me and right now all I'm focused on is being a champion, and I don't think beating her again will convince many people that I deserve to fight for the title."
Truth be told, Namajunas believes she is already a worthy title challenger and that the only reason she is not the one facing Joanna ‘Champion' is because she did not overtly campaign for the fight after her VanZant showing.
"I think because I didn't say ‘give me the title shot right now', I think that's why they're giving the title shot to Claudia Gadelha," alleged Namajunas. "That's my belief. I don't know why they set that rematch, other than it was a really competitive fight [the first time around]."
Unlike after she beat VanZant, Namajunas now feels comfortable telling the world exactly what she wants in 2016.
"My goal is to take the belt this year, and that's about it."
You can follow Rose Namajunas on twitter @RoseNamajunas