Friday, May 20, 2022

This Week In BOAT Talk Ep. 3: Namajunas Already The Best, Not Greatest

At the start of the year, we published a piece differentiating between the terms GOAT and BOAT. As the GOAT, an athlete was able to achieve sustained greatness through their accolades, records, championships, etc. But what’s this talk about a BOAT?

The BOAT is the Best of All Time. Unlike the GOAT, you aren’t bound by the laws of longevity. There’s no need to wait for a decade or more to begin a conversation that you can plainly see is going to happen anyway. Nope, you can strictly go by talent and the likelihood to win any given contest, no matter the circumstances.

You can view Ep. 1 of “This Week In BOAT Talk” here.

You can view Ep. 2 of “This Week In BOAT Talk” here.

This week in BOAT talk, Rose Namajunas dishes on her strides toward GOAT status, even though she’s already the “best!”

UFC on BT Sport on Twitter: ""I'm the best!" 🥀 "You're the best  mother****** - ever!" @RoseNamajunas chanted her mantra before the fight  started at #UFC261. There was no doubt in Pat
Rose Namajunas

At UFC 261, Rose Namajunas could be found in the corner shouting to herself, “I’m the best.”

With a flush head kick to Zhang Weili one minute into the first round to reclaim her strawweight title, “Thug Rose” proved her self-affirmation true.

Later that year at UFC 268, Namajunas would cement her status as the #1 strawweight in the world by defeating Weili once again. With this victory, Namajunas is now a two-time world champion with wins over Zhang Weili (2), Jéssica Andrade, Michelle Waterson, and others, including Joanna Jędrzejczyk (2).

There was a time when Joanna Jędrzejczyk was in a class all by herself in the strawweight division. The nickname “Strawweight Queen” suited her just as well as “Joanna Champion,” as ruling over every 115er in the UFC seemed to be Jędrzejczyk’s calling, until Namajunas earned back-to-back wins over her, cementing herself as the best.

Rose Namajunas proves UFC title win was no fluke
Rose Namajunas, Joanna Jędrzejczyk

But as great as those two wins were, even Rose Namajunas herself acknowledged that while her self-belief in being the “best” remains clinched in her mind, there is a difference between being the best and being the greatest.

“If you’re a fan, you’re in for a great ride. I think what I see is: I’m clearly the best, obviously. It’s just a question of whether I’m the greatest in the division of all time,” Namajunas began during her UFC 274 media scrum.

One reason tonight’s fight against Esparza carries such magnitude for Namajunas’ legacy is because this will be her opportunity to have two consecutive title defenses for the first time in either of her reigns.

And of course, it will also present her with an opportunity to get back one of the biggest losses of her career, which came to her UFC 274 opponent Carla Esparza eight years ago when the interim strawweight title was hanging in the balance.

Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza strawweight title rematch in the works for  UFC 274 co-main event - MMAmania.com
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

“And I think this is a huge step towards that for me,” Namajunas continued. “And that’s the big test. So I think everybody, when they think about the strawweights, they think about Joanna [Jędrzejczyk]. During her time, she came around at a time where the level of competition just wasn’t even close to her.

“So I guess what I’m looking to do is try to set myself apart because I’m clearly the best, but I think in the last fight, maybe it was kinda close. So I’ve really been working my butt off to just make sure that I can set that distance between all of us.”

Although Jędrzejczyk has two losses to Namajunas on her résumé, she remains widely separated from the strawweight pack in terms of consecutive title defenses, with a total of five turned in against her opposition.

In Namajunas’ comments, she did not specify that she was the best ever (BOAT) or just the best among her contemporaries. But given the relatively short lifespan of her division and the only other name she compared herself to being Jędrzejczyk, it’s fair to deduce that she was implying that she is the best of all time at strawweight and is now setting her sights on becoming the greatest of all time (GOAT).

Is Rose Namajunas the best? Right now that’s difficult to argue against. There’s no other strawweight in the world whose skill set can compare to Namajunas’ versatility. Whether on the feet or on the mat, Namajunas isn’t just elite but she is a proven finisher who continues to improve. And most importantly, she has beaten three former champions to showcase her consistency and supremacy.

But will she go down as the greatest? It’s nights like tonight that will help determine that in the years to come.

You can check out Rose Namajunas’ full UFC 274 media scrum below.

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