Following UFC 118, UFC president Dana White announced the company had set up an office in Beijing, China, and hired Mark Fischer, formerly of the NBA's China branch, to run its operations in Asia as executive vice president and managing director.
On Thursday, the WEC, the UFC's sibling promotion, officially announced the signing of lightweight Tiequan Zhang, of Beijing. Zhang will be the first fighter from mainland China in the WEC's history. His first task comes later this month against Alex Karalexis at WEC 51 in Broomfield, Colo.
Zhang had been rumored to be ready to sign with the promotion for several weeks, and White confirmed as much during the special announcement at UFC 118 for UFC Asia.
On Friday, WEC general manager Reed Harris told MMA Fighting signing Zhang was crucial to Zuffa's plans outside of North America.
"This is an important signing for us as we expand globally" Harris said. "Under the direction of Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta and Mark Fischer, we look forward to the possibilities that exist in Asia. Mark Fischer did a tremendous job for the NBA, and we anticipate making great progress with him on board – particularly in China."
Zhang trains under the tutelage of former Brazilian Top Team member Ruy Menezes, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. At 11-0, Zhang has never had to go the distance. All 11 of his wins are by knockout or submission, including six straight submissions.
Against Karalexis, a veteran of the inaugural season of "The Ultimate Fighter," Zhang will be making his U.S. debut. All of his fights have been in Asia.
"Tiequan Zhang is extremely talented, and we're thrilled to add him to our roster," Harris said. "He's excited to compete in WEC with the best lighter weight fighters in the world."
WEC 51: Aldo vs. Gamburyan will take place at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colo., a northern suburb of Denver. The card will be headlined by a featherweight title fight between champion Jose Aldo and Manny Gamburyan. The card also features the return of former bantamweight champion Miguel Torres, who looks to snap a two-fight losing streak for the first time in his career against Charlie Valencia. And heated rivals Donald Cerrone and Jamie Varner will also rematch in a lightweight bout.
WEC 51's main card will air live on the Versus cable network at 9 p.m. Eastern on Sept. 30