A Chat With TUF 20's Rose Namajunas

Fightland Blog

By Shawn Smith

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The Ultimate Fighter’s Rose Namajunas has a take-no-prisoners attitude towards getting what she wants. 

A native of Milwaukee—now training out of Colorado—Namajunas has quickly become a fan favorite thanks to her laid-back personality and relentless fighting style. 

We caught up with Rose to discuss her time on The Ultimate Fighter.

Fightland: Did you enjoy The Ultimate Fighter experience?
Rose Namajunas: I did. It was really tough mentally and physically, but I really enjoyed testing myself and pushing myself to the limit. I feel like I’ve made a lot of growth as a person. There were definitely some hard times [...] just being away from home. Not being in your comfort zone. I had to force myself to be my own hype man, just because the people who normally reassure me when I have my doubts weren’t there, so I just had to kind of push myself. Anytime I was having those paranoid thoughts everyone has before a fight, I just told myself to shut up and tell myself that I'm the best.

Now that you’ve been on the show do you believe you belong at that level?
Yeah, for sure. It's weird because even though you have those doubts, and no matter how confident you are, you always have that voice inside your head. When you don't have those doubts, when you don't have the evil little gremlin voice inside your head that's messing with you, I think that's a sign that you might be overly confident.

How does being in a long-term relationship (with former UFC heavyweight Pat Barry), make things more difficult in the house?
It actually didn’t. Pat and I having been together for so long, I would say it might be more difficult if we were earlier on in our relationship. At this point, I feel like I’ve grown so much as an individual, we don’t always need to be together and attached to each other’s arms. We have that connection where I was talking to him in my diary everyday so it’s almost like he was there with me. Apparently Pat’s side of the story is a little bit different—he didn’t hold up too well without me (laughs). It was tough but I coped with it.

For some other people, having children or a loved one or social media in front of you can help you deny the fact you don’t really love this. When you don't have those distractions, you're forced to realize whether you love it or not. For me, the truth was revealed to myself that this is my number one passion and is what I want to be doing.

Is it the kind of thing that you would suggest to a young fighter?
Oh yeah, definitely. I think every up-and-comer who is serious about doing this, I think it’s a great way to find out if you really want to do this. Regardless of the outcome, it’s how you react to the challenges and how you react to certain outcomes. Winning isn’t everything, it’s how you deal with the win or loss that matters. 

What surprised you about the experience?
There were a lot of surprises to be honest. Just to name a few, I'd say how good the coaching staff was really surprised me. I wasn't expecting to learn as much as I did. They really guided me every step of the way and helped me out a lot. They made me feel comfortable, too. Also, I wasn't really expecting to make many friends and I did. I made a lot of friends on the show. I also wasn't expecting to get in as many arguments and stuff as much as I did. Another thing, too—I was expecting to cry a lot more. I do cry a lot, but for me I'm such a big crybaby that it should actually be my ring name because I cry over just the littlest petty shit ever in the world. For me, I was pretty surprised at how well I kept those emotions in check. 

Being in the house with these other women, you must have developed relationships. Is it difficult to see them fight, and is it difficult to fight someone you are living with?
Maybe other girls might differ on their answer, but for me being around my opponent is actually what gives me confidence. It's what gives me comfort. Normally in a regular fight camp, when I'm training I'm not around my opponent so I'm imagining that they're this big scary monster. My imagination goes crazy when I can't see my opponent. Once I get to fight week and I'm around my opponent, I realize that they’re a regular person just like me. I get a sense of comfort, but as soon as I go back to my hotel room, I start having paranoid thoughts again, start shaking and thinking “oh my god” and my imagination goes crazy again. Being in the house with my opponent was not a factor at all and it actually gave me an advantage. 

I’ve never heard anyone say that they gain confidence being around their opponent before they fight.
Yeah, and that’s the other thing too. I have no problem fighting my training partner or anybody that I know. That's not as issue. If you think about it, I grew up with an older brother. We use to beat each other up all the time, so like I wouldn't mind fighting my brother for a fight for money. We get to get paid for it? Fuck, this is fun. For me to do it, I don't need to hate somebody to fight them. Even with training partners, a lot of people tend to go harder in the gym than in an actual fight. We're bonding in there. We want to push each other to the limit. I would never hold back on my training partner, so that doesn't affect my fight at all. 

What advice would you give to someone entering the TUF house for the first time?
My advice would be to put it all on the line, don’t just try and make it through the rounds. You’re on a reality TV show, people worry too much about scoring points and getting to the finals. I don’t believe in any safe fight. Even if you try and win on points or get by on a decision, I think there’s just as much of a risk of losing that way.



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Rose Namajunas talks TUF, Colorado, and Trying to Start a Fight with Royce Gracie

Rose Namajunas: Tough Potatoes