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UFC strawweight fighter Rose Namajunas defended her “red is dead” comment when talking about her upcoming title fight against champion Weili Zhang on Wednesday.
Namajunas explained to Lithuanian media earlier in the week that, to her, going up against UFC’s first Chinese champion means more than just fighting for the gold. Her politically charged comments raised eyebrows but the Lithuanian-American wasn’t backing down from them.
“I’d probably have a really different life if it wasn’t for everything in that documentary, how Lithuanians had to struggle with communism oppression,” she said on “Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show” referring to the documentary “The Other Dream Team.”
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“The reason that I brought it up and that I referenced it is because the reporter suggested I had animosity toward past opponents, and that’s what maybe caused some motivation in those fights, and in this one there’s no animosity so maybe there’s a lack of motivation. But that couldn’t be further from the truth,” she added.
Namajunas said she had no animosity toward Weili. After Weili said she hoped she and Namajunas could be friends, Namajunas agreed.
“I love Weili. I don’t know her. I know she wants to be friends and all that stuff. It would be great to get to know her, if we could, if it’s possible,” she said.
Namajunas, a Lithuanian American whose parents escaped communist rule in Europe, made clear in the interview with Lithuanian media the strawweight championship bout means more to her.
ROSE NAMAJUNAS TAKES AIM AT UFC CHAMP WEILI ZHANG WITH ‘RED IS DEAD’ COMMENT AHEAD OF UFC 261
“The animosity and things like that, those can be very motivating factors in short moments. 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.
“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 ‘The Other Dream Team’ just to kind of get an overall sentiment of what we fight for. 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.”
“Better dead than red” is an anti-communism slogan that was popular during the Cold War. Weili is from China, a communist country.
Namajunas and Weili are among the top female fighters in the UFC. The two will fight at UFC 261.
Weili has won 21 straight fights and became the first Chinese champion in the company. She is coming off a UFC 248 fight against Joanna Jedzrejczyk in March 2020 in which she won via split decision. She hasn’t fought since.
Namajunas last fought in July 2020 against Jessica Andrade. She won that bout via split decision as well. She also beat Jedzrejczyk twice in her career.
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She added Weili’s background is why she fights, and she fights “for freedom.”
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