For months it’s been expected that Namajunas would compete for the 115-pound title against reigning champion Zhang Weili after both picked up impressive wins in their most recent fights. Zhang defeated former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a potential “Fight of the Year” candidate, while Namajunas exacted revenge against Jessica Andrade in a rematch.
It just seemed like a matter of time before the title fight was made official, but now White has cast doubts on Zhang vs. Namajunas happening in the near future.
“What I’m hearing is Rose does not want a title shot,” White said when speaking to BT Sport. “Rose does not want to fight for a title.
“I don’t think she did [like the pressure of being a champion]. She doesn’t want to fight for the title. So we’ll see how that all plays out.”
Hours after the interview was made public on Wednesday, Namajunas’ team responded to White’s declaration. According to a statement released by Namajunas’ fiancé and coach Pat Barry, the former strawweight champion is absolutely interested in a title fight against Zhang.
“That is absolutely not true – we absolutely want the title fight,” Barry said. “Who would turn down a title fight? We just don’t want to air this out publicly. If there was some confusion, they can call us to clear it up.”
Judging by that statement, it’s possible the UFC and Namajunas are in the midst of negotiations for the title fight but haven’t come to an agreement.
If the UFC is unable to come to terms with Namajunas, White indicated he has his sights set on another former champion getting a shot at Zhang.
“If you look at the rankings and how it plays out, it would play out Weili versus Carla Esparza,” White said.
Esparza was the first ever UFC strawweight champion after she competed on The Ultimate Fighter Season 20, where she defeated Namajunas in the finals to claim the title. She lost the belt to Jedzrejczyk in her first defense and hasn’t fought for the title since then.