Before entering the Octagon with Namajunas in April, Zhang hadn’t tasted defeat since her professional mixed martial arts debut in 2013. After 21 consecutive victories, “Magnum” found herself at the top of the UFC’s 115-pound mountain and with a successful defense under her belt.
After dethroning Jéssica Andrade in front of her home crowd in Shenzhen, China, Zhang retained her belt in a five-round Fight of the Year war against former champ Joanna Jędrzejczyk. After a memorable first defense, Zhang hoped to emerge victorious again in front of the first UFC crowd in over a year. But inside the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, the 32-year-old was knocked out by Namajunas.
Now over six months later, Zhang has her chance for redemption. In the UFC 268 co-main event, she’ll enter the cage with Namajunas for the second time. This time, she has no intention of exchanging pleasantries with the champion.
Zhang Believes Namajunas Crossed The Line
A sizable chunk of the narrative heading into their UFC 261 clash was Rose Namajunas’ comments about Zhang Weili’s home country. Ahead of the fight, “Magnum” suggested she was keen on developing a friendship with the then-challenger after they threw hands (via the South China Morning Post). Any chance of that happening appeared to be dampened after Namajunas compared her fight with Zhang to a fight against communism, using the term “better dead than red.”
Having previously responded by describing her opponent’s comments as “a joke,” Zhang has once again condemned Namajunas. According to the #1-ranked strawweight, the champ made those remarks in order to stir up hatred towards “Magnum” from the fans. With that in mind, Zhang has no plans on a friendly embrace with her rival this weekend.
“I was bothered by what she had said,” Zhang told Yahoo! Sports. “The political comments Rose made got the audience not to support me. It was beyond [fair play]. It crossed a line. I don’t feel as friendly toward Rose as a fellow mixed martial artist as I did before. I have a lot more training and I have had a lot more focus on myself.”
Discussing the differences between her feuds with Jędrzejczyk and Namajunas, Zhang suggested the Polish star was the opposite of “Thug Rose,” who she described as “fake.” Nevertheless, Zhang believes her disdain towards her upcoming opponent will only provide her more motivation heading into UFC 268.
“Joanna is very direct and blunt, but Rose is more fake and not very direct,” Zhang said. “Joanna is direct as could be, and I knew what I was dealing with. But Rose had a different way and it crossed a line. But it’s got me motivated.”
With Namajunas’ victory at UFC 261, she became the first woman in UFC history to regain a belt after previously losing it. Looking to follow in the champ’s footsteps, Zhang is confident she’ll have the gold wrapped around her waist again come November 6.
“It will show the spirit I have to overcome problems and find a way to be successful,” she said. “I am confident I will do it. Rose lost the belt and then regained it, and I feel I can do that, too.”
Who do you think will have their hand raised at UFC 268, Zhang Weili or Rose Namajunas?