Rose Namajunas hands Zhang Weili first UFC loss to regain strawweight title

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Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·2-min read
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Rose Namajunas stood in her corner prior to her strawweight title fight in the co-main event of UFC 261 Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida, repeating the same words over and over with fiancé Pat Barry.

“I’m the best,” she said. “I’m the best. I’m the best.”

After she knocked out Zhang Weili with a high kick to the head to become the first woman in UFC history to regain a championship, she looked at UFC television analyst Joe Rogan and said, “I am the best.”

JACKSONVILLE, FL - APRIL 24: Rose Namajunas of the United States celebrates after beating Zhang Weili of China during the Women's Strawweight Title bout of UFC 261 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 24, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - APRIL 24: Rose Namajunas of the United States celebrates after beating Zhang Weili of China during the Women's Strawweight Title bout of UFC 261 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 24, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)

That she is after a stunning performance that was not without a bit of controversy. She caught Zhang with a high kick to the side of the head with the front leg. Zhang went down and her head bounced off the canvas.

Still, she started to get up as Namajunas dove on her. She threw three hammer fists and referee Keith Petersen stopped it. Zhang argued with Petersen as Namajunas went to all fours in the center of the cage.

Zhang was not happy, even several minutes after the bout ended.

“I felt I could come back,” she said. “The referee stopped it a little early.”

Namajunas got up and embraced Barry, who said, “You’re the best.” Namajunas robotically replied, “I’m the best.” But this time, she had the title to prove it.

She first won the belt at UFC 217 in New York when she knocked out Joanna Jedrzejczyk on Nov. 4, 2017. She was knocked out with a vicious slam by Jessica Andrade on May 11, 2019, and briefly considered retiring.

She opted to continue and showed she knew what she was doing.

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