American UFC fighter ‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas reclaimed her strawweight title after knocking out Chinese fighter Zhang Weili with a strong head kick at UFC 261.
Rose Namajunas had previously defeated the former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk with a first round knockout to win the belt and claim the strawweight title in 2017. At UFC 261 on Saturday night, “Thug” knocked out Chinese fighter Zhang Weili just 1:18 into the opening round with a powerful head kick that drew cheers from the Florida crowd and expressive reactions from the commentators.
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Ahead of the event, “Thug” made a bold statement against communism. While the fighter maintains that there is nothing personal between her and Weili, she noted that she dislikes what Weili “represents” in an interview.
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“But in all actuality going into the fights [vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Jessica Andrade], maybe there was certain rivalries and things like that, but I always kept myself in control. I never really hated the person. And I don’t hate Weili or anything like that. There’s nothing … you know … but I do feel as though I have a lot to fight for in this fight and what she represents,” Namajunas stated.
“And so just after watching that, it was just a huge reminder of it’s better dead than red. 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.”
“I fight for freedom, and I’ve got the Christ consciousness, I’ve got Lithuanian blood and I’ve got the American dream, and all those things I’m taking into this fight,” Namajunas added. The fighter is of Lithuanian descent and grew up witnessing the struggle of her parents who fled to the United States to seek a better life.
After a spectacular performance and a jaw dropping knockout, “Thug” explained what she was thinking as the fight went on. “I am the best. I didn’t see her moving. I wasn’t sure she was going to come back from that. A couple of those hammer fists and that was out.” After being defeated, Weili said “I was still conscious, the referee stopped it a little bit early.”
UFC 261 was the first event to have a full crowd capacity in over a year as COVID-19 restrictions in the state begin to loosen under the leadership of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who made an appearance at the event alongside Dana White at a press conference, as National File reported.
“UFC was the first sport back with live competition anywhere in the country. But we didn’t have the big fans for it yet. I told Dana, ‘Listen, when you guys are ready to come, Florida needs to be the first place for a UFC (event) with all the fans,’” DeSantis explained at the presser. He then praised White for his courage, saying “Dana White goes right into the teeth of (criticism). He stands up for what’s right, he doesn’t back down, he holds the line.”