One of UFC strawweight champion Weili Zhang's coaches has responded to Rose Namajunas' comments on the Chinese champion's political beliefs ahead of their title fight at UFC 261.
Namajunas had been in the headlines the past couple of weeks after she made the following comments during an interview with LRT's Martynas Nesavas about what she believes Zhang represents in terms of connecting her to communism.
“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. 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. All of those things I’m taking with me into the fight.”
Zhang's strength and conditioning coach Ruben Payan Jr. recently spoke with the South China Morning Post's John Hyon Ko sharing what Zhang's camp and the current UFC strawweight queen's reactions were to the comments from the Lithuanian-American challenger.
“To be honest with you we haven’t been paying attention,” Payan Jr. said. “It’s been like watching it but not feeling it if that kind of makes sense. This is the soap opera that’s happening 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. 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 Jr. continued on to give his own feelings on how he felt about Namajunas' comments.
"I kind of chuckle because I’ve known the team since the birth of the team,” he said. “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. And 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, and 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. 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.”