UFC 261 in the works for Vegas after Singapore negotiations fail, strawweight title fight targeted

UFC 261
PhotoCred: South China Morning Post / UFC

Rampant speculation has surrounded UFC 261 and its location. Now, it appears things will stay in Vegas with a pair of pivotal strawweight bouts.

Combate reported on Thursday that the April 24 UFC pay-per-view event will no longer be at what was initially reported as Singapore. Instead, the promotion will stick with keeping things stateside in Las Vegas at the UFC Apex facility.

Initially, the plan for the event was to have strawweight champion Zhang Weili (21-1) defending her title. That remains the same despite the location change.

As for the challenger, it’s long been known and expressed in recent months by UFC President Dana White that Rose Namajunas (9-4) is next in line. According to the report, if the former champ in Namajunas can’t go as she’s lined up to, fellow former champ Carla Esparza (17-6) is “plan B.”

However, it is also reported that the UFC is targeting Esparza vs. No. 3 ranked contender Yan Xiaonan (13-1) for the card.

Come March 7 it will have been a full year since Zhang’s epic clash with Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248. The two would go on to claim 2020 Fight of the Year honors unanimously across the MMA community. Ultimately, it was Zhang who came out as the big winner getting her hand raised via a split decision.

Namajunas, on the other hand, has fought once since May 2019 when she dropped the title to Jessica Andrade. In her lone appearance in that timespan, “Thug” avenged her loss in a rematch with the Brazilian at UFC 251 in July.

Meanwhile, Zhang’s fellow Chinese standout in Yan has put together a lengthy six-fight winning streak in the promotion as the resurgent Esparza rides four-straight — her longest since becoming the inaugural champion in December 2016.

As for the rest of UFC 261, it only has three fights on tap in these early stages.

  • Middleweight – 185lbs: Uriah Hall vs. Chris Weidman
  • Light heavyweight – 205lbs: Anthony Smith vs. Jimmy Crute
  • Bantamweight – 135lbs: Danaa Batgerel vs. Kevin Nativity
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