Rose Namajunas: Chelsea's Emma Hayes inspired by UFC star before Champions League semi-final

Hayes

Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes has revealed UFC women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas was influential in her team’s Champions League semi-final win over Bayern Munich.

The Blues won 4-1 and reached their first ever European final as goals from Pernille Harder, Ji So-yun and a double from Fran Kirby helped overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit.

It was a historic and heroic performance by Hayes’ side, who rose to the occasion in a way they have failed to do in previous seasons.

Speaking after the victory, the Chelsea boss revealed that she showed a clip of Namajunas to the players before the game.

The American mixed martial artist won the strawweight belt against Zhang Weili at UFC 261 last month, and could be heard muttering the phrase “I’m the best” to herself in the octagon prior to the contest.

In her post-fight interview, the 28-year-old was questioned on these remarks by Joe Rogan, to which she replied: “I am the best.”

This memorable moment clearly resonated with Hayes, who described Namajunas as a “mentality monster” and urged her team to channel the same mindset.

“And I said to the team, mentality monsters [like Namajunas] block all the noise out, don’t hear anything and tell themselves ‘we’re the best’,” she told reporters.

“I think this team and the spirit we have has demonstrated why we’re going to the first [Women’s] Champions League final for an English team in a long time.”

In many ways, Namajunas’ career can be seen to mirror Chelsea’s European progression. For a while, the ability has been there, but equally, there have been setbacks along the way.

The difference is, the UFC champion has realised her dream and won the belt she so desperately craved. Hayes, on the other hand, still needs to jump the final hurdle to achieve her dream.

It’s a journey that’s taken Hayes almost a decade to reach and could well put the icing on the cake of a phenomenal season.

It’s up to the players, therefore, to adopt a similar mindset as before. And, if they emerge victorious against Barcelona on Sunday 16th May, then they’ll be no more speculation, no more dreaming, no more near misses –– they’ll simply be the best.

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