Piano. MMA. Piano. MMA.

Nobody really expects this to be going through the head of an up-and-coming 20-year-old undefeated fighter. But for Rose Namajunas, this is her reality.

Namajunas is a confident, artistic, badass girl with a big future ahead of her. And while she has two passions in life, right now, MMA is on the top of the list. However, as tough as she is, Namajunas will never forget the other aspects of her identity.

“My ring name might be ‘Thug Rose,’ and it may be hard and this and that, but it is just a ring name,” admitted Namajunas in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “That is just one aspect of me. There are many different Roses that you can get to know. You can get to know the crying Rose, the laughing Rose, the joking Rose. Obviously, as times goes on, and the more videos we put out—Pat [Barry] and I—people are going to learn more about me. I just want to let everybody know that I’m coming and there’s more to me that is to be known. I guess the one thing that people don’t really know about me is that, even though I’m a martial artist at heart, I’m definitely a musician.”

Namajunas (bottom) looks for a submission (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Just like Namajunas didn’t decide one day to be a professional fighter, she didn’t just decide to be a musician, either. It’s in her genes.

“My mother was a pianist, and my father, who was schizophrenic, you know, you have to be crazy to be in order to be successful, and he was. He was the best artist ever,” she said.

Even as young as she is, piano has been a part of Namajunas’ life for a long time. Although training takes up a great deal of time, especially during fight camps, she always remains true to the two cores of her life.

“I’m really into arts, and I really love playing piano,” explained Namajunas. “I’ve been doing that as long as I’ve been doing martial arts, so if I have time to play, then I will. Training is just so draining, I find it hard to do anything I really like to do, other than fighting.”

Well, all of that fight training has definitely paid off. While she may not be using her hands to practice on the keys, she’s had no problem tuning up a few opponents.

At 1-0 as a pro and 4-0 as an amateur, Namajunas, who trains out of The Academy in Minnesota, has finished two opponents by TKO and one by submission. In her pro debut at Invicta FC 4, Namajunas submitted a very game Emily Kagan to embark on what is sure to be a stellar pro career.

It was shortly after that win that she knew she would be getting another call from Invicta.

“After the media started fizzling out, and they started announcing the next main card, and the place and time, they were also mentioning ‘expect Rose,’ and a few other fighters that would be on there,” stated Namajunas. “Coming out of the fight and reading the interviews, it became more confirmed to me that I should be preparing myself for war once again.

“I know that what I’m capable of is something that is amazing. I now have to prove it to people. I have to actually do it. And I did get ‘Submission of the Night’ bonus at the Invicta fight, in my pro debut. I knew if I could do well and pull it off, that they would want me back for the next card.”

And want her back they did. After her impressive performance in her pro debut, the fine women of Invicta did not hesitate to get Namajunas on the next card.

At Invicta FC 5, which takes place April 5 at Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City, Mo., Namajunas is set to face Kathina Catron. Catron, who trains at Battle Ground MMA in Tahlequah, Okla., has five TKOs in five amateur fights, and two submission wins as a pro. Her sole loss came last month via a second-round submission at XFL 11 in her home state.

Catron, having previous fights at 125 pounds, is a little bit heavier. She is also two inches shorter and nearly seven years older than Namajunas. But “Thug Rose” is not too worried about it.

“I feel great,” said Namajunas. “From what I’ve seen, at this level where I’m 1-0—we’re still pretty new to the pro level—there’s not a whole lot I can study on my opponents with limited video footage. I think she’s pretty similar to my last opponent, but she’s not a lefty, and I think she likes to clinch a little bit more.

“Rather than Emily, she’s more of a grinder. She likes to grind you against the cage. She’s more of a wrestler, ground-and-pound-type of a fighter. I think Kathina’s more clinching. She’s shorter than I am, so I’ll probably have the reach advantage. So, other than that, I feel pretty good about the match-up. I feel that I won’t do the exact game plan as last time. I fixed the things I didn’t like in my last fight, and keep the things that I really did like.”

For this fight, Namajunas is even more confident than in her pro debut, and her prediction tells the whole story.

“Me punching her in the face, and she falls down. Knockout without hesitation. The H-Bomb.”

That’s about as simple and specific as a person could get when predicting the outcome of a fight. But not everyone has the training background that Namajunas does.

Namajunas (L) delivers a left hand (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“I’m still at The Academy with Greg Nelson, the mastermind of the kill techniques,” stated Namajunas. “If you want to learn how to kill somebody, you go to Greg.”

Obviously, this isn’t a murder-for-hire advertisement by some crazed piano player. Martial arts were created and defined by people that fought for their lives. In MMA, it’s important to bring several arts into the training picture, and, in addition to Nelson, Namajunas has some other great trainers and partners, beginning with her boyfriend, one of the UFC’s best heavyweight kickboxers, Pat Barry.

“I have Pat, teaching me everything there is to know about striking possible, and just the fight mentality of it,” she said. “Even though people might not respect his jiu-jitsu or wrestling point-of-view, he does have some interesting things to say about how it goes with how to go about wrestling and jiu-jitsu, or just fighting in general.

“And then, this March, I’ll be coming out to Denver with Trevor Wittman for more of a boxing type of setting, and a gym where all the focus is on the fighters. I really loved the training I did last time in Denver with all the high-altitude training, running up Red Rocks, and training with Trevor. He’s the mastermind of punching and kicking, as well. I’m really excited for all of that.”

Mentally and physically prepared for her battle with Catron, Namajunas is certain she will pull out a big victory at Invicta FC 5. Hopefully, her after-fight tour will go a little bit smoother than last time.

After her win at Invicta FC 4, Namajunas and Barry made a trip to Las Vegas for some MMA awards, but things didn’t go so well on the way home.

“That was a crazy month of traveling,” said Namajunas. “We had the two worst emergency landings in that month of traveling. We drove all the way from Vegas to Minnesota in a rental car. That was terrible, but it was fun at the same time. It’s just nice to be at home, and just sit down. It was nice to just get back into the game and be healthy. Just clean out, train hard, and get my mind right for this fight.”

With her mind right and her training on track, the young fighter is ready to make big waves in her second pro fight. Namajunas has a big future ahead of her, and her sights are set at the top of her division.

“It’s such a stacked division that I can really make a case to fight anybody in that division and have it be an exciting fight,” explained Namajunas. “Even though I only have one fight and Jojo Calderwood has five or so fights, that’s eventually coming, I know it. That would definitely be an awesome match-up. Also, Bec [Hyatt], Carla [Esparza], or anybody in that division, Tecia Torres, they’re all great fighters, and I respect all of them, and they’re all great. But the ultimate goal is to keep coming, and eventually, the goal is to get the belt, obviously.”

Talent, drive, youth and a stellar training camp all define Rose Namajunas, both inside and outside of the ring. Nobody can doubt that she’s got what it takes to be at the top. After tuning up another opponent at Invicta FC 5, the young piano-playing MMA star will only add another concrete rung to her ladder to glory.

Rose would like to thank everybody around her who’s pushing her to the limit. She would like to thank Pat more than anything, her mom for being there, her brother and her family in general. She would also like to thank her coaches and trainers and her sponsors: Fear The Fighter, Down 2 Scrap and PolyCase Ammo, plus Invicta for giving her this chance. And, finally, she would like to thank Horsepower Strength and Conditioning coach Matt Miller. Follow Namajunas on Twitter: @rosenamajunas

Top Photo: Rose Namajunas (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)