Sunday, May 9, 2021

Namajunas Sees Zhang Bout As Symbolic Fight Against Communism

Rose Namajunas has never been one for trash talk, but her recent comments seem to run much deeper than that and bleed into family lineage & political ideology.

At UFC 261, Weili Zhang will defend her strawweight championship against Rose Namajunas in the co-main event. Both women are known to be two of the most skilled fighters in the world at any weight class or gender. For this reason, Zhang is prepared to partake in a classic battle between two premiere students of the martial arts and had nothing but complimentary things to say about her upcoming opponent. In fact, she felt that a friendship between the two would be a nice finishing touch after all the strikes have subsided (via South China Morning Post).

“From an exchange of blows, friendship grows,” Zhang said. “So I hope maybe we will become friends after this fight.

Zhang Weili - Page 3
Weili Zhang. Image Credit: AP

“It’s because Rose is a humble and very great fighter. She beat Joanna [Jedrzejczyk] twice and won against [Jessica] Andrade. She is a competitor with very good ability and I have always hoped I can fight with her. I feel a connection to those who fight martial arts, and we build friendships through the martial arts. We learn from each other and exchange our views when we fight together.”

Rose Namajunas Issues Not-So-Friendly Remarks

Following this interview, Namajunas’ remarks about the fight varied quite drastically from the warm sentiments expressed by Zhang. Namajunas has invoked her ancestors to draw a deeper motivation than the public are accustomed to hearing prior to a fight.

Namajunas’ parents were immigrants who migrated to America from Lithuania after living in the communist Soviet Union. Additionally, her great grandfather, who was a military officer of Lithuania, was killed by the Soviets. Namajunas says that this family history is firmly in her mind as she prepares to fight someone who hails from a communist country in strawweight champion Weili Zhang (h/t MMA Junkie).

“The animosity and things like that, those can be very motivating factors in short moments,”  Namajunas said in an interview with Lithuanian National Radio and Television. “But in all actuality going into the fight, maybe there was certain rivalries and things like that, but I always kept myself in control,” Namajunas said. “I never really hated the person – and I don’t hate Weili or anything like that. There’s nothing … but I do feel as though I have a lot to fight for in this fight and what she represents.

UFC 251: 'Thug' Rose Namajunas looks to avenge brutal KO loss
“Thug” Rose Namajunas. Image Credit: Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

“I was just kind of reminding myself of my background and everywhere that I come from and my family and everything like that, and I kind of wanted to educate my training partner on the Lithuanian struggle and just the history of it all, so we watched (2012 documentary film) ‘The Other Dream Team’ just to kind of get an overall sentiment of what we fight for,” Namajunas said. “After watching that, it was just a huge reminder of like, yeah, it’s better dead than red, you know? And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Weili is red. That’s what she represents.”

The term “better dead than red” is an anti-communist phrase that was often uttered during the Cold War. Despite the strong rhetoric, Namajunas insists that it is nothing personal against Zhang. Still, if Zhang could be so off-put by Mike Tyson simply making a prediction, these comments from Namajunas may be enough to make things very personal for the proud China native. 

Either way, it’s fair to say that the chances of Zhang’s initial hopes of becoming friends with Namajunas after their fight are now looking pretty bleak.

What are your thoughts on Rose Namajunas’ politically driven comments ahead of her UFC 261 bout against Weili Zhang?