There has never been a Chinese champion in the UFC. Hebei’s Weili Zhang is looking to change that.
This Saturday, when the UFC touches down in Shenzhen, China, the streaking strawweight contender will battle Brazilian champion Jessica Andrade for divisional gold. Zhang can imagine no outcome more perfect than becoming the UFC’s first Chinese champion in front of an arena-full of Chinese fans, and believes a victory will inspire people all over her country.
“I will be super proud,” Zhang told BJPenn.com mere days before her bid for UFC gold. “And it will definitely create huge impact on MMA’s development in China. Especially for women. They will know that they can also pursue their dreams no matter what, and shine brightly in every field, including sport.”
Toppling Jessica Andrade, of course, will be no easy task. The champion boasts a deadly ground game, fight-altering power, and unbelievable strength for a strawweight. Andrade’s strength was on full display in her last fight, which ended with a title-winning, slam-induced knockout of the former champ Rose Namajunas.
“I loved the fight [with Namajunas],” Zhang said. “I was the [Chinese language] broadcast commentator for it at that time. I noticed that Rose made some mistakes and she could have won. As for me, I will calmly observe my opponent, identify the flaws in her performance, and seize every opportunity to react and win.
“I think I also have pretty good power,” she added. “I won’t particularly worry about facing her strength.”
Andrade seemingly has an edge in the experience department. While Zhang has fought a respectable 20 times as a pro — carving out a fantastic 19-1 record in that span — Andrade has fought 26 times, and on bigger stages.
In fact, Zhang has only fought three times in the UFC — which meant her being granted a title shot came as a bit of a surprise to many fans.
“I was excited when I heard about this chance, but I think it is reasonable that I got recognized by UFC for my effort,” she said of her quick path to the title.
Heading into this fight, Andrade has stated that, if she defeats Zhang, she’d like to challenge UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko next. Zhang says that she too would welcome a fight with Shevchenko if she’s victorious in Shenzhen.
“Yes for sure [I’d fight Shevchenko],” she said. “I am always willing to fight against strong opponents, it makes me enjoy the sport, and it will be a good opportunity for me to learn from them.”
The first priority, of course, is wresting the strawweight belt from the waist of Jessica Andrade in China. Weili Zhang is confident she will accomplish this mission.
“I will say many of my skills can do damage to Andrade, such as my kicks, submissions, and a lot more,” she said. “I never expect to have a long fight. I will seize every chance to take my opponent down and finish it as soon as possible.”
Do you think Weili Zhang will become China’s first UFC champion at UFC Shenzhen? Would a fight with Valentina Shevchenko make sense after that?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 8/28/2019.