Fighters are rarely the best at being able to acknowledge why they lost in any given fight. And why should they be? To have the balls (metaphorical in this case) to step into the cage, one must truly believe you’re better than the person you’re facing, or you’re going to have a hard time. So if Zhang Weili wants to blame her poor performance against Rose Namajunas at UFC 261 on the crowd booing her rather than just an off night, what’s the harm?
“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,” Zhang told Chinese media in the weeks following her loss. “It was my first time experiencing the situation. And I didn’t expect it to be so serious.”
Zhang was knocked out with a head kick just 1:18 into the first round (watch it), so those boos must have really had her shook. And now her team is taking things really seriously to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again. According to a report from ESPN, Zhang trained extensively during her UFC 268 training camp with recorded boos playing over the speakers at the gym. Her training partners and gym mates yelled “USA” chants at her. And her new coach, Henry Cejudo, even threw in some helpful “Go back to China!” taunts.
It’s all part of a plan to toughen up “Magnum” as she heads into New York to rematch “Thug Rose” on Saturday night. Ready to be unveiled by Cejudo and head coach Eric Albarracin: Zhang 2.0, who could end up with more UFC belts than Triple C.
“This girl has an ability to go up to 125 pounds, win that belt and with the right programs and the right strength and conditioning ... 135 pounds to me is not even a stretch,” Cejudo told ESPN. “It really isn’t. This girl is special.”
As for the crowd disadvantage? Zhang was hooked up to heart rate monitors during some of the boo bashing and now she’s, “cold as ice.”
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 268 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPNEWS/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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