China’s first-ever UFC champion was the strawweight division’s Zhang Weili (21-2). After performing in the UFC 261 co-main event, the promotion’s owner, Ari Emanuel, didn’t appear to know who she was.
On Thursday, the UFC went public as an organization. To discuss the news, Emanuel got in front of the cameras for a change just days removed from the huge UFC 261 event in Jacksonville, Florida.
UFC-owner Endeavor going public on the NYSE this morning.
— Squawk on the Street (@SquawkStreet) April 29, 2021
“Well, here’s what I would say to you, even during the pandemic—we didn’t have live audiences, we didn’t have commercial PPVs—we beat our EBITA [earnings before interest, taxes, and amortization] number by 10 percent,” Emanuel told CNBC (H/t MiddleEasy).
“Now with the re-opening, you just saw we had live audiences for the first time. In Houston, we’re going to have a live audience. In July we’re having another live audience. Our direct-to-consumer business on Fight Pass is up 40 percent. Our commercial numbers and marketing numbers are up. China is going to be bigger than ever.
“Actually, because of the fight—even though our Chinese champion lost, Li Na—there was over a billion video views out of China.”
Obviously, the Chinese champion Emanuel is referring to is Beijing’s Zhang – there is not or has never been a Li Na in the UFC. Whether it’s legitimate ignorance or just confusion on Emanuel’s part, Liang Na did compete in the event’s opening bout against Ariane Carnelossi.
Zhang went into UFC 261 as the 115-pound weight class’s champion following her first title defense in an instant classic with the legendary Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Unfortunately for China’s finest, she left 261 in only a minute and 18 seconds after coming up short on the receiving end of a picture-perfect head kick from former champion Rose Namajunas.
Immediately after the loss, Zhang expressed her interest in rematching Namajunas as did UFC President Dana White. If that will actually happen remains to be determined.