Zhang Weili and Rose Namajunas’ first encounter at UFC 261 in April became a lot more political than anticipated.
Ahead of the strawweight title clash, Namajunas gave an interview to Lithuanian media where she expressed her thoughts on her background along with Zhang’s ultimately leading to her “better dead than red” comments.
“I think it definitely affected me a little bit,” Zhang Weili told The MMA Hour (h/t MMA Junkie) when looking back on the atmosphere around their fight. “The comments that Rose made, I think she was successful in making the audience boo me. 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. So I’m becoming more focused on my own fight.”
Rose Namajunas went on to dethrone Zhang Weili via a first-round knockout in Jacksonville, Florida. At UFC 268 on Nov. 6, they’ll run it back in the evening’s co-main event.
“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.”