Mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the world. It garners more attention and new fans daily. The emergence of so many new athletes sometimes makes it hard for fans to notice some of the fighters on the verge of making it to the next level. MMAWeekly.com’s Mick Hammond takes you deep inside the sport and presents you with some of the upcoming New Blood.
Key Victories: Kathina Catron, Emily Kagan
Weight Class: 115 lbs.
Country: United States
Photo by Esther Lin | Invicta FC
For Invicta FC 115-pound fighter Rose Namajanus, taking chances has worked out well this year. Her decision to turn pro by joining Invicta FC—following a 4-0 start to her amateur career—resulted in back-to-back wins in the promotion.
“My skill level has definitely jumped up since I turned pro, but you can face a really skilled amateur fighter with not too many fights or a really skilled pro fighter with a lot of fights and anyone can win. So it can be difficult to gauge when the right time to turn pro is,” says Namajanus. “It’s just one of those things where you’ve got to take a chance, and it’s worked out pretty well.”
Taking chances has yielded big rewards, as Namajanus put on one of the standout performances at Invicta FC 5 when she submitted Kathina Catron in just 12 seconds via flying armbar.
“It’s really thrilling to get Submission of the Night and end it in such spectacular fashion,” she says. “It only took 12 seconds, and it’s like the fifth fastest submission in MMA, let alone the fastest women’s submission. It’s something I knew was in my bag of tricks. I definitely took a risk going for it, but it worked out, and I still can’t believe it actually happened.”
On a card stacked with some of the top female fighters in the world—including Cyborg Santos and Sarah Kaufman—Namajanus’ flying armbar stood out amongst the best. Now that she’s put herself on the map, she is ready for whatever challenge is put in front of her next.
“I’m not a matchmaker, so I’m not the best at knowing who the next challenge is for me, so it’s really just whatever Invicta has in mind for me,” she says. “I know what I’m capable of, and I just had to believe in myself.”
Key Victories: Jimmy Jones, Tom McKenna, Josh Robinson
Weight Class: 125 lbs.
Country: United States
Nickname: The Phenom
Photo by Paul Thatcher
Sergio “The Phenom” Pettis has a lot to live up to as he fights his way out of the shadow of his older brother, UFC contender Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. However, little brother has no doubts about his own talents. He wants to get to the UFC—and he’s in a rush to do it.
The 19-year-old Pettis would like to be fighting in the Octagon sometime within the next year. It isn’t easy to get there, however, when he can’t get the fights that will earn him the honor. RFA 7 was supposed to be his coming out party, but an injury to his opponent forced him off the card. Pettis was able to get onto the NAFC card the following week, and he showed no signs of a letdown as he defeated Josh Robinson via unanimous decision to bring his record to 7-0.
Even though he’s won all of his fights, Pettis says that it’s only just lately that he’s starting to come into his own as a fighter.
“I’ve learned a lot from my first fight to where I am now,” he says. “I didn’t have much of an amateur career, so I was learning as I went along. At the beginning, I could throw stuff, but I didn’t have much confidence behind what I was throwing. Now I’m more confident in the cage and used to performing in front of a crowd. I’m able to throw that extra meanness into my game and make everything count.”
Another reason why Pettis has been able to progress quickly is because big brother has served as a guide to going about things the right way.
“My brother helps me out a lot with career advice,” says Pettis. “He’s been through it all. He’s come from the bottom, and now he’s at the top. He knows the stuff that happens in between and what to look out for. He’s helping pave my career and has helped me out a lot.”
With his brother as an example, it’s no surprise that Pettis’ goal for 2013 is to join him on MMA’s biggest stage.
“My goal has been to get into the UFC by the time I’m 20 years old, so I want to be in the UFC this year or at least by the time I’m 21 years old,” he says. “Fight after fight, I just want to have a clean record and compete with the top contenders at 125 pounds.”
Pettis’ next fight is against UFC veteran Jeff Curran for the inaugural RFA Flyweight Championship on June 21. A victory over Curran could put Pettis in position to achieve his UFC dream.
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