Rose Namajunas sees no reason to make things personal for her upcoming title fight against UFC light heavyweight champion Zhang Weili, but she’s definitely motivated by the politics of it all.
As she prepares to fight Zhang for the £ 115 title at UFC 261 on April 24, Namajunas recently spoke about her Lithuanian origins and the country’s struggle for freedom from the communist Soviet Union that ended in 1990. Then Namayunas told Zhang himself about it. his home country is China, where the Communist Party remains in power today.
Namajunas, whose family is from Lithuania, said she found new incentive to defeat Zhang after introducing her teammates to her own history of Lithuania to rid the country of communism after living under Soviet rule after World War II.
“I don’t hate Veili or anything like that, but I feel like I have something to fight for in this fight and for what she represents,” Namayunas said in a conversation with the Lithuanian edition of LRT ahead of UFC 261. “I was like that. just, I was just trying to remind myself of my origins and where I come from, my family and everything like that. And I kind of wanted to tell my training partner Chico Camus about wrestling in Lithuania and just the history of it all. So we watched The Other Dream Team just to get a general idea of what we are fighting for. So right after watching, it’s just a huge reminder of yes – better dead than red, you know?
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Weili is red, you know, that’s what she represents. There is nothing personal about her, but this is a huge motivating factor in why I am fighting and fighting for freedom, and I have Christ consciousness, I have Lithuanian blood, I have an American dream and all that. I am taking with me into this battle. “
The phrase “better dead than red” was a slogan popularized in the late 1950s as the rallying cry of anti-communism during the Cold War and the McCarthy era.
Lithuania lived under the communist regime of the Soviet Union for over 40 years and the country was renamed the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. In those years, many war crimes were committed, as well as several uprisings when groups within Lithuania fought for liberation from Soviet rule.
The country finally gained independence in 1990 during the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The documentary “Another Dream Team” mentioned by Namajunas was released in 2012 and told the story of the Lithuanian basketball team that played during the 1992 Olympic Games. Before these games, many Lithuanian players were part of the Soviet team, but after gaining independence, the country decided to field its own team.
With a small amount of money allocated to send the team to the Olympics, The Grateful Dead funded the Lithuanian basketball team, and they won the bronze medal that year. The term “other dream team” refers to the 1992 US team, nicknamed the “dream team” after NBA players first entered the Olympics. The US took the gold home that year.
As for Namajunas, her great-grandfather was killed by Soviet troops while serving in the Lithuanian armed forces.
Of course, Namajunas linking Lithuania’s own communist history to Zhang seems like a stretch given that China had nothing to do with the Soviet occupation of the country. Although China still lives under the communist regime – the Chinese Communist Party – Zhang has never made any public statements of support for the local government.
However, it is also well known that the Chinese government suppresses dissent expressed by its citizens through censorship and sometimes even imprisonment.
Nonetheless, Namajunas draws motivation from Zhang’s legacy as a fighter from China as they prepare to meet for the light heavyweight title to be played at UFC 261.