China’s UFC champ beats opponent and racism in the ring

By Li Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/13 17:23:40

Illustrations: Luo Xuan/GT

"Shut up," said Zhang Weili, the first Chinese champion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) straw weight, in responding to trash talk from her Polish opponent Joanna Jedrzejczyk before their fight.

During their bout, Zhang pummeled Jedrzejczyk with vicious blows to her face. Zhang also withstood her opponent's attacks and was declared winner by split decision. Considering that Jedrzejczyk called Zhang a "little girl" before the fight, Zhang's win was a figurative smack in the face of Jedrzejczyk. 

What has really angered Chinese people, however, was a photo Jedrzejczyk posted on her Instagram at the end of January. It was used in a poster for her fight with Zhang, that was altered to show Jedrzejczyk wearing a gas mask. Although she deleted it and apologized after receiving a ton of criticism, her post is seen as unforgivable. 

Trash talk is often used as a tactic in sporting events in an attempt to psych-out an opponent. But the poster, posted during the spreading COVID-19 epidemic, was made out of ignorance and malice.

Some of Jedrzejczyk's fans, probably feeling aggrieved by their idol's forced apology, yelled "coronavirus" at Zhang before the bout began. Zhang gave them the middle finger, which is a simple and strong way to fight back.

After the outbreak of the COVID-19 in Wuhan, many foreigners, including Jedrzejczyk and some of her fans, are linking Chinese people to the virus. Some have been avoiding Chinese people like the plague. This is still happening even though many experts have said that the actual origin of the COVID-19 has yet to be determined. It seems some foreigners are too filled with pride and prejudice to see the situation objectively. 

The actions of Jedrzejczyk and some of her fans  are those of racists, and on a par with making a "slant-eyed" gesture to mock Asians, or using the five-letter "C" word to describe Chinese people.

But Zhang, the brave, strong and tolerant Chinese champion, has shown the world the spirit of Chinese fighters: power, balance, and a peaceful mind and heart. Zhang's words during her post-fight interview best explain such spirit: "We are all martial artists here. No trash talking in the Octagon... I want to be a good example for the kids. We are the champions. We are not tyrants."

The comparison between Zhang and Jedrzejczyk is obvious. Jedrzejczyk tried to use trash talk and insults to provoke Zhang, but Zhang used her victory to "shut up" her opponent and win the world's respect and applause.

This somehow reminds me of international relations. At the center of the world stage, China has been the target of "trash talk" from some countries. But China is neither submissive nor overbearing. With its power, balance and a peaceful mind, China has proved its strength and will win more and more applause worldwide.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

blog comments powered by Disqus