Joanna Jedrzejczyk looked intense, jawing just about the entire time. Rose Namajunas looked like she’d rather be just about anywhere else.
It was the best staredown from a UFC 217 press conference earlier this month in Las Vegas during UFC 216 fight week. Jedrzejczyk, the UFC women’s strawweight champion, and Namajunas, the challenger, were right in each other’s faces the entire time.
Jedrzejczyk, as is usually the case, was the one talking trash. “Joanna Champion” has become known for trying to get into the heads of opponents prior to fights. Namajunas told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour some of the things Jedrzejczyk said during that tense face-to-face meeting.
And they weren’t too complimentary.
“I think she started out by saying like ‘mentally unstable’ and she said something else that … once she said that, I think I just like blanked out,” Namajunas said. “I don’t remember what she said in the middle. And then I think towards the end, as she started walking away, she said, ‘I’m gonna f*ck you up’ or something like that. I don’t know, kissed her hand. But I couldn’t make out everything, but I was kind of like in this weird trance state where I was getting a few words here and there.”
Namajunas kept a stoic face — absolutely zero emotion — throughout. That is part of the plan, the Milwaukee native said. Namajunas, 25, is admittedly very emotional and has learned to keep those emotions in check.
“Of course, fighting is one of the most emotional things that you can possibly do,” Namajunas said. “You have to constantly deal with your emotions, especially myself. I have so many that that’s where I get my energy from. But it’s a matter of controlling them and yeah, I just don’t let nothing affect me.”
Looking back now, with UFC 217 approaching on Nov. 4 at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Namajunas doesn’t feel any differently about Jedrzejczyk’s mind games as she did then. “Thug Rose” is just going to let it roll off her back.
“No, it’s just a script,” Namajunas said. “It’s the same script that she’s just been playing over and over again, so to me it’s kind of played out. But that’s just who she is, that’s what she does. So, I don’t know. There’s no thoughts on that.”
Namajunas (6-3) said she and Jedrzejczyk encountered one another in the hotel that same week in Vegas. Namajunas said she was in line checking in, talking with UFC staffer Chris Provino, when Jedrzejczyk showed up with her luggage. Jedrzejczyk “scowled” and stared, Namajunas said.
“She rolled it to the line behind us with a scowl,” Namajunas said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, it’s starting already.’ She was looking hard with that roller bag.”
Namajunas is coming off a big, second-round submission win over Michelle Waterson at UFC on FOX 24 in April. That victory earned her the shot at Jedrzejczyk, who has held the belt since finishing Carla Esparza in March 2015. Namajunas fought for the gold in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter 20 title tournament in 2014, but came up short against Esparza.
Over the last three years, Namajunas said she has matured and grown into her long-awaited role as a star in the strawweight division. Namajunas will concede that sometimes her biggest issues have been in her head, which is why she won’t even argue with Jedrzejczyk’s staredown description.
“Joanna can say I’m mentally unstable and this and that — and she might be right,” Namajunas said. “I have a history of it in my family. I think that’s what makes me so great of a fighter. I’m crazy as hell. And fighting helps me with that. I think if more people would hit a bag and more people would train martial arts the right away, I think there would be less tragedies in the world and less f*cked up things that would happen.”