Rose Namajunas doesn’t see a reason to get personal for her upcoming title fight against UFC strawweight champion Zhang Weili, but she’s definitely motivated by the politics of it all.
As he prepares to fight Zhang for the 115-pound title at UFC 261 on April 24, Namajunas recently spoke about his Lithuanian heritage and the country’s struggle to free itself from the communist Soviet Union, which ended in 1990. Namajunas then recounted that with Zhang’s. home country of China, where the communist party remains in power today.
According to Namajunas, whose family hails from Lithuania, he found a new impetus to beat Zhang after educating his teammates on Lithuania’s own history to rid the country of communism after living under Soviet rule after WWII. World.
“I don’t hate Weili or anything like that, but I feel like I have a lot to fight for in this fight and what she stands for,” Namajunas said when speaking with the Lithuanian half LRT before UFC 261. “I was alone, I was just trying to remind myself of my background and all the places I come from and my family and all that. And I wanted to educate my sparring partner Chico Camus about Lithuanian wrestling and just the history of it all. So we watched ‘The Other Dream Team ‘just to feel like a general feeling of what we’re fighting for. And so right after seeing that, it’s just a great reminder of yeah, better dead than red you know?
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Weili is red, you know, that’s what she stands for. It’s nothing personal against her, but that’s a huge motivating factor as to why I fight and fight for freedom and I have Christ consciousness, I have Lithuanian blood and I have the American dream, and all those things. I’ll take this fight with me. “
The phrase “better dead than red” was a catchphrase popularized in the late 1950s as a rallying cry for anti-communism during the Cold War and McCarthy era.
Lithuania lived under the communist regime of the Soviet Union for more than 40 years, and the country was renamed the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. During those years, many war crimes were committed while various uprisings took place as factions within Lithuania struggled to free themselves from Soviet rule.
The country finally gained its independence in 1990 during the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The documentary “The Other Dream Team” mentioned by Namajunas was a film released in 2012 that told the story of the Lithuanian basketball team that played during the 1992 Olympics. Before those games, many Lithuanian players were part of the Soviet team, But after gaining independence, the country decided to present its own team.
With little money allocated to send a team to the Olympics, The Grateful Dead band funded the Lithuanian basketball team and they won a bronze medal that year. The term “the other Dream Team” refers to the 1992 United States team, which was dubbed “The Dream Team” after NBA players participated in the Olympics for the first time. The United States took home the gold that year.
On a more personal note to Namajunas, his great-grandfather was killed by Soviet forces while he was serving in the Lithuanian army.
Of course, Namajunas linking Lithuania’s own history with communism to Zhang seems over the top, considering that China had nothing to do with the Soviet occupation of the country. While China still lives under communist rule, the Communist Party of China, Zhang has never made public statements showing his support for the government there.
However, it is also well known that the Chinese government cracks down on dissent displayed by its citizens with censorship and sometimes even imprisonment.
Regardless, Namajunas is drawing motivation from Zhang’s heritage as a Chinese fighter as they prepare to face the strawweight title at stake at UFC 261.