Saturday, January 22, 2022

Yan Xiaonan Takes Issue With Namajunas Mixing Politics With Sports

Yan Xiaonan has much more to say about Rose Namajunas’ anti-communism remarks than her countrywoman Zhang Weili did.

Prior to the strawweight title fight between Zhang Weili and Rose Namajunas at UFC 261, Namajunas made one thing crystal clear: She is not a fan of communism. In fact, she loathes it for what she claims the communist Soviets did to her Lithuanian ancestors. But as far as Yan Xiaonan is concerned, Namajunas needs to leave such rhetoric to the politicians and journalists and allow sports to be a place of unity instead of division (transcribed by Jesse Holland).

“I don’t like that, I don’t think she should bring politics into sports,” Yan told South China Morning Post. “Sports is a way to unite people. What she did is separate people. I don’t like that. Everyone can have his or her own opinion. She can say what she wants, she can’t change anything.”

Though brief, these comments are in deep contrast to Zhang’s non-response to Namajunas’ remarks. To be fair, Namajunas did make her comments in an appearance on Lithuanian National Radio and Television, so it was outside of the traditional sports environment. It’s not as if she belted out, “Better red than dead!” at the UFC 261 pre-fight press conference. Instead, Namajunas was speaking her truth in an interview that went beyond sports and melded into family heritage and deep-rooted beliefs. 

Namajunas’s remarks didn’t seem to hurt her stock one bit, as she was met with a thunderous ovation at UFC 261 while it was her opponent, then-champion Zhang Weili, who was booed before and after the fight. One need not look any further than Yan’s facial expressions in addition to her rhetoric to know that she means business and will not be looking to befriend Namajunas should their paths ever cross, yet another difference between her and fellow countrywoman Zhang Weili.

Do you agree with Yan Xiaonan? Should Rose Namajunas have left politics out of sports?

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