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Weili Zhang hoping to headline UFC pay-per-view in China

Weili Zhang made quick work of Jessica Andrade in the main event of UFC Shenzhen.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC president Dana White has said multiple times that it was a struggle to find an opponent for Chinese prospect Weili Zhang before she was booked to face 115-pound champion Jessica Andrade in the main event of UFC Shenzhen, but Zhang doesn’t expect it to be an issue anymore.

Zhang made quick work of Andrade on Saturday, scoring her 20th straight victory with a 42-second knockout in China, flooring “Bate Estaca” with punches, elbows and knees to become the first fighter from the country to ever win a UFC belt.

At the post-fight press conference in Shenzhen, a reporter asked Zhang if she believed other strawweights would still turn down fights with her in the future.

“I think they all want to fight me because I’m a champion,” Zhang said through a translator. “I can defend (the belt) several times, maybe for a long time, because I know all my opponents very well. I can beat them.”

A winner of four straight since joining the UFC a year ago, Zhang wants “to take a few days off to have a holiday” because she “didn’t rest” after two hard camps in 2019 to fight Tecia Torres and Andrade.

White announced at the press conference that Zhang’s first title defense will take place in the United States, but Zhang is already petitioning for a pay-per-view event in her native country. If she’s indeed fighting in the U.S., she wants to make sure that all the papers are in order for her team to travel with her.

“Yes, I would like to get on a pay-per-view event, but I also want a pay-per-view event to hold in China. This is my wish,” Zhang said. “If Dana wants me to fight in the U.S. it will be fine, but please get all my corners a visa because last time my corners didn’t come. Several corners could not come because of a visa issue.”

There’s a long list of potential contenders at 115 pounds, and Zhang won’t shy away from those. Yet, she didn’t seem against the idea of moving up to flyweight to challenge UFC champion Valentina Shevchenko in the future, an idea that Andrade had actually mentioned prior to UFC Shenzhen.

“Yes, definitely, I can do that,” Zhang said. “As a fighter I always want to challenge myself. For me, every great fighter is willing to fight, so I would like to challenge those great fighters.”

Zhang’s win is a historical moment for the sport given the huge marketing potential for the UFC in China, and it comes years after another epic knockout in women’s MMA, Holly Holm shocking the world with a knockout of Ronda Rousey in Australia back in November 2015.

The new champion used that memorable to put into perspective her own potential legacy.

“That fight broke my heart because I was a true fan of Ronda Rousey, but it was okay because every fighter has her or his own era,” Zhang said. “Ronda Rousey had her era, and then she passed the belt to another fighter, just like me. This time I won the belt from Jessica Andrade, and she passed the belt to me.

“I think she passed the belt willingly to me because I’m the better fighter. I can defend my belt for long time, but after that if there’s one fighter who is better than me I’m willing to pass this legacy belt to her because she’s the best.”

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