Former UFC Strawweight Champion Zhang Weili has come to terms with her loss to Rose Namajunas, describing the 115-pound queen as a “god.”
Having amassed a remarkable 21-fight winning streak that included championship fight wins over Jéssica Andrade and Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Zhang tasted defeat on MMA’s biggest stage for the first time against Namajunas at UFC 261. After little over a minute into the opening round, “Thug Rose” launched a vicious head kick before finishing Zhang with ground strikes.
Despite initially appearing to struggle to accept the defeat, Zhang has seemingly changed her mindset and has acknowledged the level that Namajunas, who became a two-time champ with her victory over “Magnum,” is on.
During part one of My Bronze Age, a mini-documentary covering the Chinese sensation’s career and recent title reign, Zhang said that in order to reach the pinnacle of the division again, she has to put her own errors behind her and admire “Thug Rose.”
“You must have no feelings when you see the knockout again. She’s the champion now. You must admire her. You must respect her as a god. You can’t think she got the belt because of my accidental mistake. Rose is at the top and I should give all due respect. She’s the champ, just like a god. She’s the one in billions. I should respect her. But she’s still my target.” (h/t BJPenn.com)
Zhang’s stance is a far cry from her original feelings on the defeat, which she admitted in the documentary left her angry and unable to talk about the knockout.
“I couldn’t talk about it without crying but now I can talk about it freely,” Zhang said. “I’ve accepted it. It felt like the cage flipped over (laughs). This time I was distracted a bit and one ‘DONG’. Only one minute passed by. Things can occur like this.”
“Magnum” added that, whilst she initially struggled with online comments and cyberbullying, her coach Cai Xuejun encouraged her to accept it and focus on herself.
“Haters, supporters — giving me all kinds of comments. It felt like I was being cyberbullied at the time (laughs). I told Cai that I want to have an old phone. I don’t want to look at the internet and all the comments anymore. Cai said I can’t, ‘You can’t live in your own vacuum. You need to accept this.’
“There are only two types of comments; good and bad. [You] Don’t need to care about the comments. Just do well and be myself.”
Having been so dominant in the years prior to her first loss in the UFC, Zhang Weili believes she deserves and immediate chance to bring the title back to her corner. In the UFC 261 post-fight press conference, Namajunas said the 31-year-old’s feelings were understandable and she’d be open to running it back for her first defense.
But despite Zhang training hard for a potential second meeting with the fan favorite champ, the arrival of Carla Esparza as a title contender has thrown a spanner in the works. “Cookie Monster,” who became the UFC’s first 115-pound champ when she submitted Namajunas in 2014, extended her winning streak to five with a TKO victory over Yan Xiaonan at UFC Vegas 27. With successes prior to that against the likes of Marina Rodriguez, Michelle Waterson, and Alexa Grasso, many have argued that the 33-year-old has done more than enough to secure a title shot.
Do you think Rose Namajunas’ first title defense should be an immediate rematch against Zhang Weili?