At UFC 261, Rose Namajunas defeated Zhang Weili to become the new UFC strawweight champion. This was the first time in Zhang’s career that she was knocked out, and to add insult to injury, it happened in front of a very hostile Florida crowd. Zhang was on the receiving end of a heavy shower of boos while being introduced, and there were even some scatterings of boos reserved for her after her defeat.
Neither the knockout nor the boos is something the former champion would particularly like to experience again. And seeing as how she has stated that her performance was impacted by the boos, she has a solution for both the knockout and the jeering audience.
“Ideally, we would like it to be held in Abu Dhabi,” Zhang said during a livestream. “This location is neutral to both parties. But now, Rose is the champion, so it might not be up to us. The table has been turned.”
In a somewhat cruel twist of fate for Zhang, Dana White and the UFC had originally hoped the fight against Namajunas would take place in China. Swapping the boos out with cheers may have made a difference in the fight’s outcome if Zhang’s performance was drastically altered by the fans. Then again, it also could have made the knockout even more painful if it happened in front of a home audience.
Ultimately, Zhang would like to move on from the entire UFC 261 experience. In fact, she would rather not even discuss her opponent at the event, Rose Namajunas, even seeming to imply that the new strawweight champion is two-faced.
“I don’t want to comment on Rose,” Zhang said. “I wanted to touch gloves with her in the fight but she didn’t do it. So I think … I wanted to make friends through MMA, but the other person doesn’t think like that. So oh well. Joanna, I think Joanna is quite cute. She is good. She is cute. She makes things clear and not tries to hide anything. But Rose, she is smart. Very smart.”
Dana White has hinted that a rematch between Zhang and Namajunas could be next, but this has not yet been the confirmed route the UFC will take, especially after Carla Esparza’s big win over Xiaonan Yan at UFC Vegas 27.
Do you think a neutral location would make a difference in a rematch between Zhang Weili and Rose Namajunas?