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Monday, November 29, 2021

Namajunas, Usman combat in rematches in UFC return to NYC

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Rose Namajunas used New York as her breakout metropolis on her method towards UFC stardom. She received the 115-pound title in November 2017 at Madison Sq. Backyard and adopted it up simply 5 months later with a profitable protection in Brooklyn.

And to suppose, the Wisconsin native at first didn’t give her combat night time places a lot thought.

“I’m probably not into the historic factor in terms of arenas,” Namajunas stated. “It was like, you’re combating on the Backyard! I’m like, OK. After combating there, that’s once I realized the power and the way particular it’s. Having that have now, and going to New York so many occasions and being actually accustomed to the town, I admire having the ability to return once more.”

The appreciation runs deep at UFC.

For the primary time since Donald Trump turned the primary sitting president to look at cageside and Dwayne Johnson offered one winner a championship belt, the promotion that largely camped out in Nevada, Florida and Abu Dhabi in the course of the pandemic makes a return to the Backyard.

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It’s again on the metropolis so good, it needed to run again fights twice: UFC 268 on Saturday night time at MSG is headlined by two championship rematches. Namajunas places her strawweight title up for grabs in opposition to Zhang Weili. Kamaru Usman defends his welterweight championship in opposition to Colby Covington.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 04: Kamaru Usman of Nigeria poses in the course of the UFC 268 press convention at The Hulu Theater at Madison Sq. Backyard on November 04, 2021 in New York Metropolis.
(Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Namajunas is on a rematch run since she beat Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the championship 5 years in the past in New York. She received the second bout, as effectively, earlier than dropping the title to Jessica Andrade. Namajunas received that rematch additionally, earlier than she received the strawweight championship for a second time along with her victory over Zhang in April. Seven months later, they’ll sq. off once more, although with a bit extra respectful tone after Namajunas linked the Chinese language Zhang to communism within the hype main into the primary combat.

“Clearly, I’m good at rematches,” she stated with fun. “It doesn’t make it any simpler.”

Namajunas has been candid about her issue adapting to a profession within the highlight and even hinted at retirement after she misplaced to Andrade. She stated she wasn’t even positive she was occupied with combating and wished to “do one thing else” earlier than a small break revitalized her curiosity. Namajunas, who earned the nickname “Thug” as a child from considered one of her neighbors, had used her post-fight interviews to evangelise kindness. The blowback from her feedback about Zhang additionally took a toll.

“I believe I simply realized how a lot folks take note of what I’m saying,” she stated. “However I don’t care about any of that going into this one. Folks wish to carry it up and speak about it.”

Namajunas laughed when she stated she nonetheless has days the place “I by no means wish to do that once more,” however she has a long-term imaginative and prescient of what she needs to perform and feels there are sufficient worthy contenders within the strawweight division that might result in big-money fights for years. And, buzzcut and all, she feels extra comfortable in her personal pores and skin.

“I’m undoubtedly extra comfy with it, however simply with my character, it’s all the time going to be a bit little bit of a problem,” the 29-year-old Namajunas stated. “I’ve a stronger help system and I make it possible for I’ve a correct quantity of quiet time. I’m simply extra mature typically.”

Usman can solidify his declare as the best welterweight in UFC historical past forward of Georges St-Pierre ought to he beat Covington for the second time. Usman is undefeated in UFC (14 straight wins) since his 2015 debut, although he was pushed to the restrict in his first combat with Covington in December 2019.

Usman closed out an often gradual combat with Covington in thrilling vogue, pulling down the challenger twice with proper arms after which decisively ending him on the bottom.

“He’s the pound-for-pound finest fighter on this planet,” UFC President Dana White stated. “This man’s essentially the most achieved welterweight of all time. He’s on his method to being the best welterweight of all time. When you have a look at all these guys he’s beat, he’s now on his second run of beating these guys two occasions. If he beats Colby once more, I believe Kamaru Usman may be the best welterweight ever.”

Covington wants a win to show he’s greater than a one-schtick marvel after he reinvented himself as a MAGA-loving fighter who polarized even the UFC viewers and grew near Trump. The primary card additionally could possibly be a turning level for 40-year-old Frankie Edgar, who has misplaced 4 of six heading into his bantamweight combat in opposition to Marlon Vera.

“I begin speaking to guys after they get to an age and get in there and begin getting knocked out persistently or simply can’t compete at this stage anymore,” White stated. “I don’t really feel that method proper now about Frankie Edgar. However we’ll see how he does this weekend.”

Justin Gaethje fights Michael Chandler and Shane Burgous takes on Billy Quarantillo within the different two fights on the primary card.

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