When the smoke cleared on UFC 217 last weekend, it was obvious that it was the PPV event of the year in 2017 for the company. Not only did it feature three championship fights, but it also was the avenue for UFC icon, Georges St-Pierre to make his return to the octagon. More so than that, each of the championship fights delivered from an entertainment standpoint like no other title fights this year have done. Further, each championship that was on the line changed hands with St-Pierre snagging the middleweight title from Michael Bisping and TJ Dillashaw taking the bantamweight title from Cody Garbrandt. The most shocking title change was in the women’s strawweight division where Rose Namajunas ousted heavy favorite, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, by knockout in the first round.
Namajunas, a relative unknown, was given a less than zero percent chance of pulling out the upset. In grand fashion she destroyed the most feared woman in MMA. In the aftermath, all the bright lights inevitably beamed directly at her. In a million years, the UFC never saw that scenario playing out. Dana White would never tell anyone this, but on the surface I don’t believe they wanted to see it play out. Now, they have no choice but to accept it. Namajunas is their champion and the UFC will need to treat her like one. The question they’re asking themselves is; how marketable is Rose Namajunas? I see dollar signs. Lots of them. Here’s why.
Just think about it. The UFC has never had a female version of Georges St-Pierre. I’m not talking necessarily from a skill standpoint, but more so from a personality standpoint. Georges St-Pierre is and always has been the white meat babyface of the UFC. He doesn’t engage in trash talk as his actions inside the octagon speak for him. He is the counterpoint to the Conor McGregor’s and Michael Bisping’s of the world.
Namajunas has a similar demeanor to her as well and can be the counterpoint for the UFC women’s divisions. From a superstar standpoint, all the UFC has known with their women have been the likes of Ronda Rousey and Jedrzejczyk herself. Both are large personalities and let the world know it whenever they can. They talk trash and back it up on a regular basis. Namajunas can be the yin to their yang for the UFC. She’s soft spoken and almost too nice, but has the competitive spirit to win. That personality can sell in 2017. People like to cheer for that as most can identify with that personality as opposed to the outlandish nature of Joanna’s and Rousey’s. Rose Namajunas – The everywoman of the UFC. Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?
It doesn’t seem like it, but Rose Namajunas can talk very well. She certainly doesn’t utilize her talking as a means to win a battle of mental warfare like Jedrzejczyk does, but she utilizes it in her own way. In post-fight interviews after her shocking victory at UFC 217 she walked through exactly what her strategy was going into the fight and how she accomplished the unthinkable.
She said, “This was a fight of mental warfare and I beat her at her own game. I think each time that I wasn’t giving her nothing, she needs that. She needs someone to fire back and I wasn’t going to do that. I stuck with it. It took a lot of restrain on my end, it took a lot of control. It took a lot out of me, but I knew that’s what I had to do, that was the way to beat her was to shut her mental game down.” That quote is intriguing and exciting on many levels.
The openness displayed is eye opening. Not many fighters are willing to discuss in-depth their thought process entering a fight. Namajunas did that, did it well, and made me want to hear more. She didn’t have an attitude and she didn’t have an agenda. She just simply answered the questions in front of her as honestly as she could. Refreshing right? The UFC should be salivating at the opportunity to market something like that in comparison to other traits that aren’t as admirable.
Namajunas has skill too. She finishes opponents and has a history of being an engaging fighter who entertains when she’s inside the octagon. This is obviously important for everybody that’s in the market of being a UFC star. Now, in the interest of full transparency we should call a spade a spade as well. This Namajunas victory could have been a total fluke. She was a massive underdog for a reason and is only 8-3. This win could have been a one off in which Namajunas simply caught Jedrzejczyk on a bad night. We all have them. The more likely scenario is that Joanna mistakenly and foolishly underestimated her opponent. In a rematch, Namajunas would certainly be the underdog once again and you can bet big money that Jedrzejczyk won’t be underestimating her. All that said, UFC should still run with Namajunas right now; especially since they don’t know how long they’ll have to showcase her.
2017 has been the year of finding stars for Dana White. At UFC 217, one came out of nowhere. Namajunas fell into his lap. They won the lottery with her, so it’s best that they don’t throw out the ticket. Strap the rocket to her and go. The UFC and fight game in general is loud and boisterous. For good reason, many of the UFC stars are loud and boisterous too. Contrasting styles sell and Namajunas contrasts with almost everyone. That makes for big fights and big money. She’s the champion and now is the time to see what she can do. Remember, Rose Namajunas – The everywoman of UFC. Start printing the t-shirts.
NOW CHECK OUT HEYDORN’S PREVIOUS TAKE: 5 reasons to end your negativity on Bisping vs. St-Pierre this weekend