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Rose Namajunas starting to have thoughts of a second title ahead of UFC Denver

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Rose Namajunas is hopeful a win Saturday will put her in position to go after something she once barely dared to dream about.

Namajunas (13-6 MMA, 10-5 UFC) takes on late replacement Tracy Cortez (11-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) in the UFC on ESPN 59 main event in front of her home fans in Denver. Cortez stepped up for Maycee Barber, who had to pull out in late June.

The fight will be Namajunas’ third at flyweight in the UFC, and the former women’s strawweight champ already can see the potential to go after a belt at 125 pounds, too – which would put her in rarefied air if she was to become a two-division titleholder.

“When I first started my career in the UFC, that was my vision that I had in mind. It wasn’t super solid, but I definitely wanted to become champion,” Namajunas told MMA Junkie Radio. “And then, somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought to become champion in two divisions, as well.

“But that was so far in the distance, I wasn’t sure if I could make that happen. But now I know that I can.”

Namajunas lost the strawweight belt to Carla Esparza in her second reign as champion. She moved up to flyweight, but lost to Manon Fiorot. She got back on track against Amanda Ribas in March, though, and a win over Cortez, who has yet to lose in the UFC and is unbeaten since a loss in her pro debut, might be enough for her to jump the line – especially given her accolades one division down.

Cortez won’t be an easy task, though Namajunas is more than a 2-1 betting favorite. She said she had to switch some things up after spending so much time prepping for Barber, but not to the point she seems concerned.

“It’s not like night and day difference,” Namajunas said. “My approach is the same as far as what I’m going to do, and it pretty much is the same every time. As far as defense goes, I just have to watch out for a little bit of different things. I think that Tracy has better back control when she gets on the ground. She’s great on the top. … With Tracy, there are less dynamics and she’s kind of coming at you a little more. But she’s got great fundamentals, and I’m looking to make sure my fundamentals are better than hers and also have that extra flair, as well. I could beat her everywhere, so that’s my goal.”

Namajunas is No. 6 in the UFC’s official women’s flyweight rankings. Barber is No. 4, so a win over her would’ve gone a long way in helping her distinguish herself from former champ Valentina Shevchenko, Fiorot and Erin Blanchfield.

Cortez is ranked No. 11, but Namajunas doesn’t think she’s in a lose-lose situation taking a risk against a lower-ranked opponent.

“I’d say I’m right in that title contention talks (with a win),” Namajunas said. “God willing, I’m healthy, I’m in shape and I’m ready to go with a win and whatever opportunities they want to give me. I could see myself fighting for the belt really soon. It’s just a matter of doing my job and fighting to the best of my abilities. Anything’s possible.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 59.


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