Rose Namajunas admits she struggled to cope with being world champion – but won’t make the same mistake again.
The UFC strawweight shocked Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the first round of their first enthralling clash in 2017 before grinding out a points win in their rematch six months later.
But Namajunas’ reign was ended in stunning fashion last year when she was KO’d by Jessica Andrade who was subsequently beaten by Zhang Weili.
Namajunas will meet Andrade again on Fight Island on July 11 with victory potentially setting her up for another shot at the 115lb belt.
“I didn’t know what to expect, I was a bit bitter and ungrateful, there were a lot of things that had gone on that I didn’t know how to handle,” the former champion told Mirror Fighting .
“There were so many blessings that came from it but I couldn’t recognise it in the moment, it was cool to have experienced that and to have learned from it but given the opportunity again I would handle it a lot better.
“It’s not just that I would count my blessings but also feel the gratefulness, you can know that you’re blessed and that you’re in a great position but sometimes you don’t feel it, so that’s what I would work on, feeling those feelings of gratitude and constantly working on that; once that’s in place then everything else is easier from there on out.
“There are lots of people who work really hard and never get the opportunities I get. We all have a cross we carry, we all have cards we’re dealt and I’m just thankful for the challenges I’ve been given and for the blessings I’ve been given.
“I’d never want to trade it for anything else, we all deal with something that someone doesn’t know about, it’s just loving and accepting yourself for who you are and being ok with that.
“You work hard for what you’ve got but at the same time you could do the same amount of work and be someone else and not get that result.
“Results come from opportunity but also hard work meeting at the same time, those two things exist at the same time, yes you can put in the work but the opportunity has to present itself at the same time.”
Namajunas, who was speaking as a Monster athlete, also admits she struggled with moving into adulthood at the same time she became world champion.
But as she launches the next part of her career, the 28-year-old is confident she has conquered her psychological demons.
“If anything I think fighters are generally more emotional about things, that’s why we fight,” she added.
“As far as martial arts is concerned, it helps people like us have control over ourselves when we don’t have control of our situation.
“We are emotional people and I think people forget that. When you’re in the ring you have to control your emotions but there’s also the highs of winning and the lows of losing.
“Everybody’s different; I know what works for me is maturing but also controlling my breathing and having that acceptance. For me also having that spiritual connection to that higher power, that’s super important.
“I like to look at my brain and my mind as a muscle, you do curls to strengthen your biceps, so I do the same thing with my brain; you’re going to have slip-ups but the more you work at it the better you’ll be.
“Some people are gifted with it, they don’t have to put much thought into their mental preparation but for me it’s something I constantly work on; but when I do work on it, I’m the strongest out there and I’m a champion.
“I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished and how far I’ve gone and I’m looking forward to all the things I’m going to accomplish form here on out.
“I feel physically in really good shape and mentally I’m in one of the best places I’ve been my whole life.”