Before Rose Namajunas defeated Zhang Weili to claim the UFC strawweight title at UFC 262, the American expressed some odd opinions regarding her motivation heading into the fight.
On multiple occasions Namajunas stated that a source for motivation was that Zhang, to her, represented communism. Namajunas said this plainly by stating, “better dead than red” and Zhang “is red”.
Namajunas’ equating Zhang with communism appears to be based on Zhang being Chinese and China being lead by the Chinese Communist Party. Zhang is not one of China’s rulers nor has she said anything publicly that is especially nationalistic or pro-communist. China is an authoritarian state where individuals are routinely persecuted for expressing opinions that are contrary to the ruling party.
When discussing what Zhang may or may not believe, Namajunas speculated that Zhang “may be being told what to say.”
Namajunas’ also expressed that her drive to defeat someone she said represents communism stems from her family’s experiences suffering under Soviet rule in Lithuania. China was not a member of the Soviet Union. China has never had an armed conflict with Lithuania.
Zhang didn’t comment on the controversy Namajunas stoked ahead of the fight. But one of her coaches did recommend that Namajunas not “jump to conclusions.”
Yan Xiaonan, a rising contender in Namajunas and Zhang’s division, has spoken about the controversy, albeit briefly.
Yan spoke to South China Morning Post lately about her upcoming fight with former champion Carla Esparza. When the conversation shifted to Namajunas, Yan expressed that she was not happy with what she heard out of the newly crowned champion.
“I don’t like that,” she said (ht bjpenn.com). “I don’t think she should bring politics into sport. Sports is a way to unite people but what she did is just separating people. I don’t like that. Everybody can have her or his own thoughts, she can say what she wants but she can not change anything.”
Yan heads into this weekend’s UFC Vegas 27: Font vs. Garbrandt looking to add to her 12 fight undefeated streak.
She joined the UFC in 2017 and, since then, has won six straight fights; all by unanimous decision. In 2019 she defeated Angela Hill at UFC 238. She followed that up with a win over former title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Last time out, at UFC on ESPN: Santos vs. Teixeira last year, Yan defeated another former title challenger: Claudia Gadelha.