Rose Namajunas knows it's only July, even if everyone else seems to be living in November.
While Namajunas knows that Kowalkiewicz (9-0) is a real threat, she says fans and media are already looking past this weekend in favor of a potential title matchup against defending champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Namajunas, 24, said that has been a little frustrating.
"Non-stop, every day people are asking me about it," Namajunas told ESPN.com. "It is what it is, I guess. Media is not with you every day, so they end up being 10 pages ahead of you. They're always saying, 'When is the next story, when is the next headline?' Everyone is jumping way ahead and I'm not even at this fight yet."
To be fair, there is good reason to be excited at the possibility of Namajunas challenging Jedrzejczyk for the title.
Fighting out of Denver, Namajunas has looked fantastic during her current three-fight win streak. She has always had flash (her second pro fight ended in 12 seconds, via flying armbar) but she has also recently made room for a real technical presence.
Since losing to Carla Esparza in the UFC's inaugural strawweight title fight in December 2014, Namajunas and coach Trevor Wittman have emphasized fundamentals. The results, thus far, have been perfect.
The final component is probably more mental than physical, as Namajunas is still learning how to pace herself in a fight and rely more on the technique than the flash that makes her stand out. Even Jedrzejczyk seems to be aware that is Namajunas' biggest hurdle.
"I think Rose, sometimes, is lost," Jedrzejczyk said. "Her head is not [always] strong. She's not always mentally strong. I think Karolina might win this fight because she's always going forward. I don't know. But if Rose wins, she'd deserve a title shot."
Following her last win, a decision against Tecia Torres in April, Namajunas admitted she had a difficult training camp leading up. At one point during the post-fight press conference, she said she was "done crying, done not sleeping at night."
Ahead of this weekend's bout against Kowalkiewicz, Namajunas said she has been in a different environment and is learning how to assert herself more in training camp. She said she's taking better care of herself, both mentally and physically.
According to Wittman, the camp has tested pulling back Pat Barry, Namajunas' fiancé and a former UFC fighter, for this fight. Barry has been a staple of Namajunas' corner but Wittman said the team wanted to see what effect not having him has on Namajunas' nerves.
"I always say, when you get the families involved, there's an emotional tie," Wittman said. "My father, when I used to play baseball, he would stand behind the cage and there was always this distraction because I'm so emotionally involved with my father.
"Having that emotional involvement is too much assessment. I think we ran into that with the last fight. He's a very emotional guy, it's a little much high energy. It's a cool thing, getting her hyped up, but on an energy level we needed to keep it focused. One thing, when it comes to a corner, when you're speaking high or speaking low, you always want to be able to assess the energy of a fight. Sometimes a coach needs to cool you down, sometimes a coach needs to wake you up, sometimes a coach needs to piss you off. But when there's non-stop, high energy, that makes you fight non-stop high energy. I wouldn't say it's a bad thing, but at this level we needed to have everything toned in."
While the majority of the MMA world might be jumping ahead to Jedrzejczyk, Namajunas and her team are fine tuning for Kowalkiewicz. Should everything go as planned on Saturday, maybe Jedrzejczyk will be the next target. She'll certainly be asked about it.
"When I was on 'The Ultimate Fighter' [in 2014], I said I'd be champion in either 2015 or 2016," Namajunas said. "I think maybe, by saying 2015 but not committing to it, I opened the possibility, mentally, of coming close but not achieving it. I'm waking up every day feeling like a champion now, but there are steps to it. I'm taking this day by day."