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Coach expects UFC champ Zhang Weili, Rose Namajunas to fight in first quarter of 2021

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Zhang Weili (right) currently holds a 5-0 UFC record, including a win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk (left)
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Zhang Weili successfully defended her UFC strawweight belt in an instant classic in March, defeating former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk after five rounds in Las Vegas, and should get back in action in the first quarter of 2021, her jiu-jitsu coach Pedro Jordao told MMA Fighting.

The UFC has yet to officially announce the next contender in the 115-pound weight class, but Rose Namajunas is the frontrunner after avenging a loss to Jessica Andrade in Abu Dhabi in July.

“We’ll see how things go with this virus,” Jordao said of the coronavirus pandemic. “But I think (the fight) will probably be in the first quarter. … We’re training for a while here. It appears that her next fight will be against Rose, but nothing is set yet. Everything indicates that’s the plan — and it makes sense, everybody knows that.”

Jordao trains Zhang in China
Photo via Jordao

Zhang became a celebrity in China after a thrilling title defense in March, Jordao said, and her biography is currently in the works. Speaking of her next move in the octagon, the Brazilian coach likes the challenges that Namajunas brings to the table.

“She’s another tough opponent,” Jordao said. “I think Rose is more technical (than Zhang’s previous opponents), more calm, and very talented. It’s time to test that.

“I know she’s probably training really hard, but I think it’s a good match-up for Weili Zhang style-wise. People say she’s is very strong, very strong, but we’ve seen how technical she is, too. I trust Weili and think she will be able to defeat Rose.”

The COVID-19 pandemic started in China in the final months of 2019, but Jordao says the situation is under control at the moment, allowing Zhang to train without restrictions in Beijing. The jiu-jitsu coach was scheduled to enter grappling tournament this week in Shanghai, but opted to withdraw due to a “small outbreak” in the region.

Jordao moved to China in 2014, and Zhang was his first student. Jordao, who calls the UFC star by her “international name,” “Maria,” noticed she had potential despite a 2-1 MMA record at the time.

Zhang has won 19 in a row since, going from a fierce striker to a well-rounded martial artist. Zhang currently holds a 5-0 UFC record, including first-round finishes over Jessica Aguilar and Andrade.

“She has taken every opponent down in the UFC except for ‘Bate Estaca’ (Andrade),” Jordao said. “She’s always training jiu-jitsu, she’s very well-rounded. I train with her for six years and I watch her evolution closely, I know how powerful her strikes are, her technique on the ground, how strong is her guillotine and rear-naked choke, her armbar. She’s very confident on the ground. She’s not afraid to go to the ground.”