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Rose Namajunas (right) and Zhang Weili move around the Octagon during their UFC 261 co-main event. Photo: AP

UFC: Yan Xiaonan didn’t like Rose Namajunas ‘better dead than red’ remarks – ‘don’t bring politics into sports’

  • ‘What she did is just separate people,’ says Chinese strawweight contender after fractured build-up to UFC 261 fight against Zhang Weili
  • ‘Everybody can have her or his own thoughts. She can say what she wants but she cannot change anything,’ adds Yan

Yan Xiaonan has made it clear she is not a fan of Rose Namajunas’ political talk.

The 28-year-old Lithuanian-American used the phrase “better dead than red” leading up to her strawweight title shot against Zhang Weili at UFC 261, invoking a popular Cold War slogan that became a focal point of the build-up to her first-round head kick KO victory in Jacksonville, Florida.

And Chinese No 3-ranked contender Yan (13-1, one no contest), who returns in a potential title eliminator against former champ Carla Esparza (17-6) at UFC Vegas 27 this weekend, felt Namajunas’ remarks were unnecessary.

“I don’t like that,” Yan told SCMP MMA. “I don’t think she should bring politics into sports. Sports is a way to unite people. But what she did is just separate people.”

“We’re different. We have different thoughts,” Yan added. “And everybody can have her or his own thoughts. She can say what she wants but she cannot change anything.”

Zhang was booed by many of the 15,000 fans at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena before, during and after losing her title on April 24, with reports of racist remarks directed at her during her walks to and from the Octagon.

UFC: Yan takes lessons from Zhang’s loss, plans to finish Esparza early

Her manager Brian Butler-Au, who also counts Namajunas as a client at Sucker Punch Entertainment, condemned the “hateful rhetoric” experienced by Zhang and her fellow Chinese fighters on the card, amid a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in the US.

“It’s never happened to me and my team,” 31-year-old Yan said, regarding experiencing racism in the US. “When I’m here all the people I’ve met, they are friendly, they help us a lot no matter if it’s in the gym or the UFC Performance Institute.

“I have a few Chinese friends in the United States, they have helped us with our daily life. They drive us to the grocery stores, for trips, or help us for translating – a lot of support.”