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Rose Namajunas open to fight with ‘savage’ Maycee Barber

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Rose Namajunas has her first win as a UFC flyweight out of the way. A second one could propel her back into championship territory.

There are no shortage of potential opponents for Namajunas, who earned a unanimous decision win over Amanda Ribas in Saturday’s UFC Vegas 89 main event. Namajunas brings plenty of cachet to any matchup, given her history as a two-time strawweight champion, but she likely needs a win over a top-5 contender to earn a title shot at 125 pounds.

Namajunas mentioned the names of a few contenders following her latest win, with Maycee Barber being one that drew particular interest.

“I think she’s a savage,” Namajunas said at the UFC Vegas 89 post-fight press conference when asked why she would like to fight Barber. “She’s a big girl, she’s strong, she’s just a bully in there. I knew her when she was really young, and she’s a lot different now. She used to kind of call me out back when she was younger and things like that – I think it’s kind of funny. But she’s really tough, and that would definitely motivate me and get me going every day, because I know she throws with really bad intentions.

“But anybody else is cool, too. Erin Blanchfield, Manon [Fiorot], title [shot], don’t matter.”

Barber has been on a hot streak since a loss to future champion Alexa Grasso, having won six straight fights. Most recently, she knocked off perennial contender Katlyn Cerminara at UFC 299 to put herself into position for a No. 1 contender’s fight.

Currently, Grasso and former champion Valentina Shevchenko are scheduled to coach the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter 32, which leaves them on the sidelines for the foreseeable future and the flyweight title picture in limbo.

Though Namajunas lost to Manon Fiorot in her flyweight debut, her impressive run at strawweight made her one of the UFC’s most popular fighters, and she’s fine with capitalizing on her notoriety if the matchmakers want to fast track her to a championship fight.

“I think that definitely if they want to give me a title shot, I’m more than happy to do that,” Namajunas said. “I lost to Manon Fiorot and she’s fighting Erin Blanchfield and she was calling for a title shot, so I know how things work and I know that you’ve got to earn things. Had things gone a little bit different of a way [against Manon] I probably would have been in that title shot after Manon.

“It was kind of weird not being ranked too. Can I just get ranked now? So I think that just kind of threw me off a little bit. But it was kind of cool and I was happy to just—Instead of just being the champ and then jumping straight into a superfight, champ vs. champ, go up a weight class, I think it is kind of cool to just work your way up and do it that way. I think becoming the champ this way would be way more impressive in my opinion, but at the same time if they want to give me that, I’ll take it.”

Namajunas is currently No. 14 in MMA Fighting’s Pound-for-Pound Rankings and should expect to have a number next to her name in the UFC’s official rankings after getting past Ribas. “Thug Rose” was able to use her grappling to win portions of her fight against Ribas, but she admitted that she’s still adjusting to competing in a heavier weight class.

“I felt actually pretty good,” Namajunas said. “There was some things to work on. I wasn’t as quick as I wanted, like as snappy as I wanted to be, but my arms are a little bigger, but I also could feel my strength was great. I think everybody thinks that I’m small or weak or something like that, so it’s just good to get better at the grappling aspect of things and just kind of keep all of my skills up at a high level, no weakness anywhere.”

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