Zhang Weili’s Coach Dismisses ‘Soap Opera’ With Rose Namajunas’ Past Comments

Team Zhang responds to Rose Namajunas' controversial "better dead than red" comments.

Zhang Vs Rose
Zhang Vs Rose

The highly anticipated title fight between Zhang Weili and Rose Namajunas is almost here. Zhang defends her title for the second time as Namajunas looks to be the first ever 2X women’s UFC champion. However, the lead-up to the Strawweight battle wouldn’t come without controversy. 

What Sparked The Controversy

“Thug” received some backlash online after speaking on her anti-communist views and how it motivates her even more to defeat the Chinese champion. 

Namajunas would touch about her Lithuanian lineage, politics and even recite a slogan from The Cold War. “Better dead than red”.

“Better dead than red, you know?” Namajunas said.  I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Weili is red. That’s what she represents. It’s nothing personal against her, but that’s a huge motivating factor of why I fight, and I fight for freedom. I’ve got the Christ consciousness, I’ve got Lithuanian blood, and I’ve got the American dream. And all of those things I’m taking with me into the fight.”

While the comments stirred up some controversy, Zhang Weili and her team aren’t too bothered by what the former champ had to say. 

Coaches’ Response

Zhang’s strength and conditioning coach, Ruben Payan would shed some light on Namajunas’ approach to UFC 261.

“This is the soap opera that’s happening” Payan told SCMP. “But [we’re] not really engaging in it because we’re just so focused on the fight. It hasn’t even been a topic of the team. I wish there was something more that I could say but it’s non-emotional. There’s really nothing to say if you’re not really emotionally attached to it.”

The MMA community has been very vocal about what “Thug” has said, but Team Zhang aren’t getting any less sleep on what was heard.

“You’re just kind of watching things happen and you’re watching people talk about it, you see people get upset about it. And you see the comments but you’re not involved in it. That’s kind of how it feels. Even though some of the comments are directed towards [Zhang], there’s so much non-truths to it that it’s like we’re not even going to pay attention to it. That’s kind of how we feel.” 

Payan has been the long-time coach and friend of Chinese stars Zhang, Yan Xiaonan and “The Leech” Li Jingliang, so naturally Namajunas’ views didn’t exactly sit too well. 

“I’ve known the team since the birth of the team,” Payan added. “So you go to the infancy, the birth of it. So you know the struggles and who’s involved. Where the money comes from. We know all of that, so when they say ‘the government is doing this,’ Uh, no. No, they’re not.

“If the story is ‘yes they are’ and that’s what you want to believe … I mean the hardest thing for people to do is accept they’re wrong, because of the narrative that has been played in movies and on media. And the truth of the matter is, no, you’re actually wrong.”

“I think you should humble yourself and say maybe I shouldn’t jump to conclusions, and maybe I should talk to the person and listen and understand it’s been a lot of work for the team and every individual to get here. We’re not going to allow lies and things that are just not true to take away from our personal success as a team and a family.

The U.S. Marine and the Chinese resident would continue to unravel Rose’s ‘misconceptions’. 

“I lived there for so long and I understand what it feels like to be free and go live in China. To live in a communist bubble. Underneath all of that, the people are still chill. And I say that because I come in from the military and go into China. People underneath the layers of names and labels, they’re all the same.”

Zhang Weili still wishes well on behalf of Rose Namajunas, and looks to befriend her after their fight in the co-main event of UFC 261 this weekend. 



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