Rose Namajunas injects politics into Zhang Weili fight at UFC 261: ‘Better dead than red’
Perhaps Zhang Weili and Rose Namajunas can't be friends after UFC 261, as the current strawweight champion had hoped.
In an interview with the Lithuanian national radio and television, Namajunas, who is Lithuanian-American, said she does not hate Weili, but also made it clear what Weili represents for her as a Chinese champion.
“The hostility and things like that can be very motivating factors in brief moments. But in reality there might have been certain rivalries and the like, but I always kept myself under control, ”said Namajunas. "I've never really hated the person - and I don't hate Weili or anything like that. There's nothing ... but I feel like I have a lot to fight in this fight and what they represent."
Namajuna's parents were Lithuanian immigrants who moved to the United States after communist rule in the Soviet Union. Her great-grandfather was an independent Lithuanian military officer who was killed by the Soviets near his home.
When she thinks about her title fight on April 24th, Namajunas seems to have reconciled her family history and Weili from China, a communist country.
“I just kind of remembered my background and everywhere I come from, my family and so on, and I wanted to kind of educate my training partner about the Lithuanian struggle and the history of it all, so we watched (2012 documentary) 'The Other Dream Team 'just to get a general sense of what we are fighting for, ”Namajunas said. "After seeing that, it was just a great reminder of how, yeah, it's better to be dead than red, you know? And I don't think it's a coincidence that Weili is red. That represents her."
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The phrase "better dead than red" was a Cold War slogan that became popular in the United States in the late 1950s, with "red" meaning communist. Weili has never publicly advocated communism, but Namajunas associates it with it by default and uses this as a source of motivation.
"There's nothing personal about them, but that's a huge motivator for why I am fighting and fighting for freedom," said Namajunas, who wants to win the £ 115 title for the second time. "I have the Christ Consciousness, I have Lithuanian blood and I have the American dream. I take all of these things with me into the fight."
Namajunas' remarks come less than a week after Weili said she hoped they could bond after their fight.
“Friendship grows through an exchange of blows. I hope we may become friends after this fight, ”Weili told the South China Morning Post. "It's because Rose is a humble and very great fighter. She beat Joanna twice and won against Andrade. She is a competitor with very good skills and I've always hoped I could fight her. I feel a connection with those who fight the martial arts, and we build friendships through the martial arts. We learn from each other and share our views when we fight together. "
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