Rose Namajunas’ very first crack at UFC gold happened in 2014, during the Finale of the 20th season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’. Had she won the then-vacant strawweight belt against Carla Esparza, she would’ve been the UFC’s youngest champion at 22, a year younger than Jon Jones who became a titleholder at 23 in 2011.
But as fate had it, “Thug Rose” first captured the belt in 2017 at the age of 25. And as she told Ariel Helwani in her Wednesday appearance on The MMA Hour, she likely would’ve gone the same troubled path as Jones if she became the organization’s youngest champ.
“Had I won that fight, who knows where I would be,” Namajunas said. “I was going to be youngest champion, like, younger than Jon Jones. Not definitely, but I can only imagine that with winning a fight like that at that point in my life, I probably would have crashed a few cars, or been doing all kinds of bad things. My life probably would have been way more out of control.
“Joanna [Jedrzejczyk] probably would have whipped my ass.”
Without giving too many details, the 29-year-old Namajunas admitted to having her fair share of decadent experiences.
“Without getting into too much detail, I’ve been a partier since I was really young. I don’t do that no more,” he said.
“It just got really dangerous. I had a few different wake-up calls. You get out of a situation and you go, ‘Wow, I could have died, or somebody else could have died,’ or really bad stuff.
“Not everybody’s fortunate enough to have that moment of clarity to be like, ‘OK, I need to stop messing around here, because not only is my life in danger but other people’s as well.’
“Since I was 13 years old, I was drinking and doing all kinds of stuff, and I stopped, I want to say the last time I had a hard drink was my last amateur fight, and then I got super wasted and I woke up the next morning and there kind of, I was like, I was fighting. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I could have really gotten hurt. I’ve gotta stop doing this.’”
Now on her second strawweight title reign, Namajunas will defend her belt against former champion Carla Esparza. The two will square off as co-headliners of UFC 274, which happens on May 7 in Phoenix, Arizona.