Yesterday Rose Namajunas spoke to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani about her forthcoming fight versus UFC strawweight champion Zhang Weili. In that interview she was asked about her comments to Lithuanian press that included the statement ‘better dead than red’ and that Zhang ‘is red’. Red in this instance referred to being a communist.
Namajunas’ objection to what she said Zhang represents comes from a family history that includes her great-grandfather being killed in battle against the Soviets (who were not Chinese) and a documentary she watched about the 1992 Lithuanian men’s basketball team.
Namajunas stood by her comments and continued to encourage people to check out the documentary. She did not elaborate on how and why she connected the very specific historical occurrences of the USSR’s occupation of Lithuania and the treatment of Lithuanian’s under Soviet rule with Zhang simply being a Chinese person.
Namajunas was asked if it was fair to speculate on what Zhang believes in when Zhang has not made a habit of expressing her political or ideological beliefs, Namajunas responded with more speculation.
Rose Namajunas stands by her comments that opposition to communism is a motivating factor in her fight against champion Zhang Weili at UFC 261.— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) April 14, 2021
Zhang, who has not been known to publicly express her political beliefs, is UFC’s first and only champion from China. pic.twitter.com/M44ZdHYytd
“That’s true and I don’t know what her beliefs are,” she said (ht SCMP). “But here’s the thing, and this is a question maybe we should ask her, can we even really know what she actually believes? She may be being told what to say. I don’t know. Do we know exactly what she believes?”
“For me and for my experience with communism, is that you can’t freely have an opinion, you can’t criticize your government,” said Namajunas, who was born in Milwaukee, WI in 1992.
“I can talk about America and how imperfect it is, and how there’s lots of things messed up about us and stuff like that, and I’m very grateful for that freedom to do so.”
China is an authoritarian state and a known abuser of human rights. The country is also known to crack down on critics of the country’s ruling Communist Party. Individuals in China are not free to openly express their criticism of their country without fear of repercussion. However, this does not mean everyone in the country agrees with their government’s ideological bearings.
China had no involvement in the historical events that Namajunas cites as motivation for her wanting to win against a Chinese fighter.
Zhang vs. Namajunas is scheduled for April 24 at UFC 261. The event is planned to take place in front of a capacity crowd in Jacksonsville, Fl.