UFC 248 post-event facts: Numbers support Weili vs. Jedrzejczyk as an all-time title fight
In a new interview, former UFC strawweight queen Zhang Weili admitted that pre-fight comments on Chinese communism from Rose Namajunas affected her during their championship bout at UFC 261. A fight Zhang lost by knockout in the first round.
At first, the lead-up to Namajunas (10-4) and Weili’s (21-2) April title fight followed a narrative of two elite talents competing in a bout filled with mutual respect. However, that all changed when the 29-year-old American chose to switch the narrative in the direction of international politics and national representation.
Namajunas — a child of Lithuanian immigrants — told Lithuanian National Radio and Television before the fight, “better dead than red,” when speaking on her representation for her Lithuanian roots, and it once being a country-held under Russian communist rule. As well as what Weili represents as a fighter from China. A country currently led by a communist regime.
Zhang Weili feels Rose Namajunas tried to turn fans against her at UFC 261
Although the comments made headlines and surprised fans and media because Namajunas is more known for being a humble and understated fighter, the rhetoric did not bother Weili. At least not at first. However, things changed on fight night when the first Chinese-born UFC champion received a rude welcome from the crowd in Jacksonville’s VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
It was a reaction Weili had not gotten previously in her UFC career, despite being a foreign-born fighter fighting for a US-based promotion. However, “Magnum” admits the boos from the American crowd had an effect on her mentality, and she blames Namajunas and her communist talk for turning what was once a friendly audience into one that was far more unwelcoming.
“I think it definitely affected me a little bit. The comments that Rose made, I think she was successful in making the audience boo me,” Weili said Wednesday through an interpreter on The MMA Hour [h/t MMAJunkie]. “But I think that’s my own problem because I should be concentrating on the fight and not the audience. I can’t control who the audience likes.
“In my mind, I think that, yes, those comments crossed the line because I think all the audience, all the fighters, we all come together in the UFC because we all share the passion of the MMA sport. In my mind, I’m coming here because I want to make friends because we all have the common love of martial arts. I think it’s not a good thing to mix sport with politics, but I think that’s maybe her plan. So in the beginning, I thought it was just kind of trash talk. It really didn’t affect me. But when I went out in the stadium and got booed, I think Rose wanted to use those comments to make the audience boo me.”
Weili and Namajunas 2 will go down at UFC 268 in November
New champion Namajunas and Weili will meet again in November at UFC 268 inside New York’s Madison Square Garden. The championship rematch is set to be the event’s pay-per-view co-main event. In the headliner, UFC welterweight king Kamaru Usman will face top contender and former interim champion Colby Covington in a rematch of their December 2019 title fight.