Zhang Weili is making it clear that she has accepted her first loss since her debut — but not without first overcoming the pain that came with it.
The UFC’s first Chinese champion is currently in the middle of having a mini-documentary release where she’s gone into great detail about some moments in her career — including her most recent fight.
“You must have no feelings when you see the knockout again,” Zhang said of her loss to Rose Namajunas via part one of My Bronze Age. “She’s the champion now. You must admire her. You must respect her as a god. You can’t think she got the belt because of my accidental mistake. Rose is at the top and I should give all due respect. She’s the champ, just like a god. She’s the one in billions. I should respect her. But she’s still my target.”
At UFC 261 in April, Zhang suffered a first-round knockout loss to Rose Namajunas via head kick at just a minute and 18 seconds. The outcome snapped Zhang’s near-record tying streak of 21 wins without a defeat — that first coming in her pro-MMA debut opposite Meng Bo.
The loss of her strawweight title now leaves the Handan, Hebei native feeling put in a position where she’s hit the reset button — as if she’s starting all over again in China’s Kunlun Fights league.
“I couldn’t talk about it without crying but now I can talk about it freely,” Zhang said. “I’ve accepted it. It felt like the cage flipped over (laughs). This time I was distracted a bit and one ‘DONG’. Only one minute passed by. Things can occur like this.
“I just feel… extremely not reconciled. I brought so many people to go to the match with me, and the way how I felt in the match makes me not satisfied at all. The day after, I didn’t sleep for more than 20 hours. I couldn’t fall asleep at all. Once I closed my eyes, the moment when I fell down was replayed in my head. Every time I closed my eyes I saw the moment. I kept asking my coach Cai [Xuejun] after the match, ‘Is the fight really finished? Did I really lose the belt? Is it finished?'”
Following UFC 261, Zhang Weili made a transformation to her appearance with a new haircut and shortly after took to social media for a live stream interview. She was met with several mixed reactions as the community, fans and fighters alike, believed excuses were made for her loss.
“Everyone commented on this,” she said. “Haters, supporters — giving me all kinds of comments. It felt like I was being cyberbullied at the time (laughs). I told Cai that I want to have an old phone. I don’t want to look at the internet and all the comments anymore. Cai said I can’t, ‘You can’t live in your own vacuum. You need to accept this.’
“There are only two types of comments; good and bad. [You] Don’t need to care about the comments. Just do well and be myself.”
Originally noting how the crowd seemed particularly volatile toward her during fight night, the 31-year old Zhang shared another moment that happened prior to her walk.
The former champion recalled seeing Chris Weidman backstage who was set to compete in a rematch with Uriah Hall. Wishing him good luck, Zhang shared a quick fist bump with the “All American” as he departed for the Octagon. Only 17 seconds into the bout and a checked leg kick resulted in Hall winning via TKO due to Weidman breaking his leg.
Zhang admitted to losing focus and becoming emotional after seeing such a rare and disturbing occurrence. Therefore reaffirming to her how focus can’t be lost in MMA for a single millisecond.
“I didn’t want to go back to China,” Zhang Weili said. “I wanted to stay and train in the US. I wanted a second fight. I would have to wait in the US and not go home. After I was back in China, I thought I was mentally recovered. But then I had my first live stream, my memory was brought back to the fight again. I couldn’t help my thought, I cried. I felt my scar was re-opened. I was upset.
“After I came back, I told Cai that I need to train immediately. Cai said, ‘No. We can’t rush right now. We wait until you no longer have any resentment to the fight, that moment. Then we can start over again.'”