Former UFC women's strawweight champion Zhang Weili has started to reflect on her first-round knockout loss to Rose Namajunas at UFC 261.
Now that she's had some time to process the loss, Zhang opened up about her feelings on the stoppage and her initial reaction to it during a live stream alongside one of her coaches Xuejan Cai. She also opened up about the mental toll of the boo's from the heavily Pro-American crowd in Jacksonville, Florida, and how that played into her performance.
“Regarding the stoppage, when the referee pulled me away, I really couldn’t accept the fact,” Weili said (h/t MMA Mania). “I was not reconciled at all. I worked hard for a long time, and I trained very hard every day. And I brought a big team of mine to America, yet the match ended this early. Deep inside, I couldn’t accept this fact. It’s because I put in so much effort to prepare for this fight, and it was very tough for me every day. But because of one misjudgment that I made, I thought she was doing a low-kick, and I had a defense for the low kick, but she made a high-kick instead. And it was very sudden, very quick. And it’s not like we went for three rounds and she overpowered me, or even after one round if she overpowered me and I lost, then I would admit that my skills weren’t as good. But this one is really.. you know. I didn’t have a chance to show what I’ve got. So I felt wronged."
“Last fight with Joanna, even though she trained in America, she isn’t American. So we were quite equal, and neither of us got any boos. But this time, because Rose is from America, and Florida is a bit like that. So when I showed up in the event...wow the boos were really loud. It was my first time experiencing the situation. And I didn’t expect it to be so serious. Even if she had 70 percent of the audience on her side, and just a small amount on my side, it wouldn’t have been that loud. When my music started playing even before I showed up, it was already loud. And so I couldn’t even hear what the referee or coach said.”
Her coach Cai then gave his opinion of her performance and why he felt that fighting in front of such a hostile crowd, was a disadvantage and overwhelming for the former Chinese champion.
“I think Weili performed quite well in the beginning,” he said. “There was a huge psychological disadvantage fighting amongst a hostile crowd, so Weili wanted to relax more and be less nervous. But when she tried, she didn’t relax. Instead, she lost focus. So at that moment, she was actually not fully there. So I would say Weili wasn’t focused enough. We wanted her to be in her vacuum of focus from the moment of her entrance. But we let the boos overwhelm us.”