Rose Namajunas stands by communism-linked comments toward UFC 261 opponent Zhang Weili

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UFC strawweight contender Rose Namajunas says she doesn’t regret saying her opposition to communism is at least part of her motivation for her April 24 fight against champion Zhang Weili at UFC 261.

Zhang is UFC’s first and only champion from China.

Namajunas’ family is from Lithuania, and she said she has drawn inspiration from the documentary, “The Other Dream Team.” The film focuses on the 1992 Lithuanian men’s national basketball team, which entered the Barcelona Olympics as an independent country after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Namajunas recently told a Lithuanian outlet that the movie is a reminder that “it’s better dead than red,” an anti-communist expression coined during the Cold War. She also said Zhang is “red” and that freedom is a “huge motivating factor” for why she fights.

“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.

Namajunas elaborated on her comments on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show, which aired Wednesday.

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“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,” Namajunas said, adding, “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.”

Namajunas, who shares the same manager as Zhang, repeatedly said her comments were not personal against her opponent. At one point, Namajunas said she views all of her opponents as “red.”

“They’re just the person standing in the way of my dream,” she said.

Zhang recently expressed hope that she and Namajunas could be friends after the fight.

“I love Weili,” Namajunas said. “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.”

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