One of the more anticipated UFC title matchups in 2021 was supposed to be the fight between Weili Zhang (21-1) and Rose Namajunas (9-4). Originally, this fight was supposed to take place in the first quarter of 2021.
Namajunas returned to the cage at UFC 251 where she avenged her loss to Jessica Andrade. Andrade had defeated Namajunas for the UFC strawweight title a year prior at UFC 237.
During that year-plus layoff, Andrade lost the UFC strawweight title to Zhang. Zhang and Namajunas are looked at as the top two strawweights in the world by a decent margin.
From a stylistic perspective, the fight promised to be extremely competitive. Since 2017, Namajunas had looked sensational in the UFC. Her only hiccup was getting knocked out by an Andrade slam in a fight she was dominating.
Last week, Dana White came out and put a little on water on the fire of this fight. In an interview with BT Sport, White said that he was hearing that Namajunas didn’t want the UFC strawweight title fight.
With that in mind, the promotion would look at potentially booking Zhang against Carla Esparza. Rose Namajunas appeared in a livestream on her YouTube channel over the weekend where she addressed White’s comments.
What’s next in the UFC’s strawweight division
“I’m just ready to fight. I don’t know what’s going on, but I know you guys are ready for me to fight too. Maybe there’s a misconception out there that I’m weak minded or whatever. That’s not true. That’s what I live for. I’m the pressure cooker,” Namajunas said.
Certainly, Namajunas doesn’t sound like someone who doesn’t have the desire to fight for the UFC title. It’s worth noting that we really don’t know exactly what is going on behind the scenes with Rose’s camp and the UFC.
It’s well known that Dana White doesn’t always get involved with negotiations. A lot of the time it’s the match makers and legal teams working on fights while White focuses his time on promoting the fights that are already booked.
However, White does get involved when needed. It seems clear that White was passed along the message that Rose wasn’t interested in the title fight. However, Namajunas’ camp is adamant that isn’t true.
Both sides need to get together to resolve this issue. No disrespect to Carla Esparza, but nobody is itching to see her fight for the UFC title at the moment. The fight to make is Zhang against Namajunas.
I’ll be curious to see how this situation plays out over the next few weeks. If they figure this out, I would expect the UFC strawweight title fight to take place in either March or April.