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After scary KO, a former UFC champion hints she might be ready to walk away

Jessica Andrade throws Rose Namajunas to the canvas during UFC 237. (Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)

After losing her strawweight crown to Jessica Andrade at Saturday’s UFC 237, Rose Namajunas strongly suggested she might walk away from mixed martial arts. Given the way she lost, Namajunas might be lucky she can consider walking away without a serious injury.

In a stunning finish to the main-event bout, Andrade picked Namajunas up and forcefully flung her down. Namajunas’s head was the first thing to hit the canvas. Andrade was only allowed to throw a couple of punches at her prone opponent before the referee stopped the fight in the second round.

Namajunas’s awkward landing had some observers — including other MMA fighters — concerned that she might have broken her neck. However, the 26-year-old appeared to emerge relatively unscathed.

“Going into this one, I was like, ‘This might be the last time I ever do this.’ But we’ll see. We’ll take it one day at a time," Namajunas told reporters after her loss.

Andrade (20-6) said she would welcome a rematch, but Namajunas (8-4) wasn’t inclined to discuss the topic. Instead, she sounded closer to retirement, though she left herself some room to reconsider.

“Let’s see if I’m still interested in this,” said Namajunas, who had been making the second defense of her 115-pound title. “I just want to do something else with my life right now. I’m not going to make no decisions right now. It’s just hard to keep having fun with this.”

Andrade said though her Portuguese nickname, “Bate Estaca,” means “pile driver,” she had never performed that move in a UFC fight before. Andrade said she was initially worried about Namajunas but added with a laugh, “I was happy that everything worked out and that I didn’t kill her.” (Via MMA Junkie.)

“In the moment I didn’t see what happened,” Andrade said. “I saw that she fell, and I saw that she passed out. And I threw two punches, and the referee got in between us. But I hadn’t realized the proportion of that; I didn’t see the magnitude of that.

"We train to get in there and get out of there healthy, but she woke up right after that and I relaxed.”

A Milwaukee native who fights out of Denver, Namajunas won the UFC title in November 2017 by defeating the previously unbeaten Joanna Jedrzejczyk. An underdog at the time, Namajunas again beat Jedrzejczyk in her first title defense, at UFC 223 in April 2018.

That event, though, was largely overshadowed by Conor McGregor’s attack on a bus carrying several UFC staffers and fighters — including Namajunas, who was still emotionally traumatized by the event several months later, according to her trainer.

Namajunas also found herself spending much of 2018 recovering from a compression fracture in her neck, an injury that might have been weighing on her mind after Saturday’s loss. She fought extremely well in the first round, only for the fight to take a major turn in the second.

While some wondered if Andrade’s pile-drive was a legal move, given that MMA rules generally prohibit spiking an opponent to the canvas onto the head or neck, veteran referee Big John McCarthy explained on Twitter that when Namajunas “goes for the armbar she has a choice to either let go of the armbar or try and hold onto it and go for the ride that Andrade is going to put on her.”

“There is no illegal slam when a submission is being attempted,” McCarthy added. “It does not matter how she brings her down.”

When told of Namajunas’s uncertainty about continuing her MMA career, Andrade said she was “upset” because she would like a rematch. However, Andrade called her opponent “amazing” and told reporters, “It’s kind of bad to see someone with a lot of talent wanting to retire, but I think everyone knows the right time to finish this.

“Some people love this and want to do this for as long as they can, but some people see that maybe they don’t want to do it anymore,” Andrade continued. “It’s not enough for them and they want to look for something new."

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