Rose Namajunas said she had second thoughts about fighting Joanna Jedrzejczyk last weekend — right up until she was at Barclays Center before UFC 223.
“There was even moments at the arena where I was like, ‘I really don’t want to do this, guys,’” Namajunas told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I said to [my boyfriend] Pat [Barry], ‘It’s not turning on’ and he got so mad at me.”
Namajunas got caught in the crossfire Thursday afternoon when Conor McGregor and more than a dozen other men attacked a UFC fighter bus in the bowels of Barclays Center after media day. McGregor and his team were looking for rival Khabib Nurmagomedov and in the process McGregor threw a dolly through a bus window near where Namajunas was sitting.
In retelling the story of that day, Namajunas said she got lucky. The bus was backing up when McGregor threw the dolly, she said. And if it hadn’t moved, it would have hit the window right next to her, rather than the one next to Michael Chiesa. Chiesa and Ray Borg had to be removed from the UFC 223 due to injuries sustained by glass shattering all over them.
Namajunas said glass still ended up all over her back. But she ducked down when she saw the dolly coming.
“Initially, I just didn’t know what the hell was happening,” Namajunas said. “I saw the dolly come towards the window, but I didn’t know that it was Conor until like later. And then I kind of slowly put together that they’re probably after Khabib or whoever. But in my head, I didn’t know if it was a terrorist attack or what was going on.”
McGregor was later arrested and charged with multiple counts, including assault and criminal mischief. Namajunas, meanwhile, had to re-center herself and focus on defending her UFC women’s strawweight title against the former champ Jedrzejczyk just two days later.
Namajunas, 25, was visibly shaken up after the attack and walked back to the hotel without the other fighters. She said she slept poorly that night and couldn’t calm down until the next day.
“Are they coming to kill somebody, are they coming to fight?” Namajunas said she thought at the time. “I don’t know. All these thoughts are going through my head.”
All turned out well enough. Namajunas did end up fighting and she beat Jedrzejczyk by unanimous decision in a hotly contested bout.
Even with the hard-fought victory, Namajunas said something just didn’t feel right in the Octagon. It wasn’t the same as when she knocked out Jedrzejczyk in the first round at UFC 217 back in November.
“This one was special for different reasons, but it was definitely a lot more difficult,” Namajunas said. “There’s the fights where everything is autopilot, the machine takes over. It’s like a work of art and it just comes out naturally. And then there’s fights where you’re manually controlling every part of your body and you’re aware and alert for every part of it and you’re controlling everything. This one was one of those where i was awake for all of it. All five rounds was really tough. But I did it and I did it really well, I’d say.”
Jedrzejczyk has said she believes she won the fight. But when the fifth round was done, Namajunas said she knew she was victorious and she had kept her belt.
“That fifth round, that was the heart of a champion,” Namajunas said. “I stole that fifth round. That’s what a champion does. That’s what [Jedrzejczyk’s coach] Mike Brown said beforehand and that’s what I did.”