UFC competitor Rose Namajunas refused to apologize for her anti-communist remarks ahead of her fight against Chinese fighter and current champion Zhang Weili, telling “Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show” on Wednesday that she does not regret making her opposition to communism clear.
During an April 10 interview with Lithuanian media, the strawweight contender referred to the documentary film “The Other Dream Team” and said it serves as a reminder that “it’s better dead than red,” a popular anti-communist slogan, according to CBS Sports.
Namajunas said that while she doesn’t have a personal vendetta against Zhang, she views the Chinese fighter as representative of communist China.
“The animosity and things like that, those can be very motivating factors in short moments. But in all actuality going into the fight, maybe there was certain rivalries and things like that, but I always kept myself in control,” Namajunas said. “I never really hated the person — and I don’t hate Weili or anything like that. There’s nothing … but I do feel as though I have a lot to fight for in this fight and what she represents.”
The fighter has personally experienced the evils of communism. As a child, Namajunas emigrated to the United States with her parents to escape the communist tyranny of the Soviet Union. Her grandfather, a member of the Independent Lithuanian military, was killed by the Soviets.
“I was just kind of reminding myself of my background and everywhere that I come from and my family and everything like that, and I kind of wanted to educate my training partner on the Lithuanian struggle and just the history of it all, so we watched (2012 documentary film) ‘The Other Dream Team’ just to kind of get an overall sentiment of what we fight for,” she said.
“After watching that, it was just a huge reminder of like, yeah, it’s better dead than red, you know? And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Weili is red. That’s what she represents.”
Following a slew of negative feedback from fans who called her “brainless,” Namajunas said critics of her remarks should learn about how Lithuanians suffered under the communist Soviet regime.
“If you’re confused about any of my opinions, you can watch the documentary and you could get a good idea as to what my family had to go through, the reason I’m in the United States today, the reason that I do mixed martial arts, all of that stuff,” Namajunas said. “I’d probably have a really different life if it wasn’t for everything in that documentary, how Lithuanians had to struggle with communism oppression.”
“The reason that I brought it up and that I referenced it is because the reporter suggested I had animosity toward past opponents, and that’s what maybe caused some motivation in those fights, and in this one there’s no animosity so maybe there’s a lack of motivation. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
The Lithuanian-American fighter went on to make clear that she doesn’t harbor any personal bad feelings toward Zhang.
“I love Weili. I don’t know her. I know she wants to be friends and all that stuff. It would be great to get to know her, if we could, if it’s possible,” she said.
The two fighters go head-to-head at UFC 261 on April 24 in Jacksonville, Fla.