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Zhang Weili, other Chinese UFC fighters arrive in Thailand for two-week stay as coronavirus outbreak expands

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Zhang Weili is scheduled to defend her UFC title belt against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in Las Vegas.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Chinese UFC fighters Zhang Weili, Li Jingliang and Xiaonan Yan left their home country this past weekend, hoping an early departure will ensure they can fight on schedule.

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to worsen, the trio traveled to Thailand with plans for a two-week stay. The length of the trip coincides with the known incubation period of the virus, which has led to widespread travel restrictions and quarantines for Chinese nationals and “self-quarantines” for Americans who recently traveled to the country.

On Sunday afternoon, the TSA implemented a new ban on non-US citizens who’ve been in China within 14 days of their planned travel. The Chinese fighters should circumvent that in Thailand.

“It’s the quarantine because of the virus,” Weili’s jiu-jitsu coach Pedro Jordao explained to MMA Fighting. “You can’t enter America otherwise.”

Since the start of the coronavirus global emergency, there have been more than 24,000 confirmed cases with at least 490 deaths. More than 20,000 of the cases come from China, but dozen of other countries have confirmed cases, including Thailand and the United States.

Of the trio, Yan has the most pressing timeline for work. She faces Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC Auckland on Feb. 23, just over two weeks away. Weili, the undisputed UFC strawweight champion, is set to defend her belt against Joanna Jedrzejczyk on March 7, the same night Jingliang battles Neil Magny in Las Vegas.

Yan and Li opted to travel to Pattaya, located 90 miles away from the capitol of Bangkok, where Weili and her team are currently training.

If all goes right with her visa application, Yan will likely arrive in Auckland on Feb. 19, just two days before the official weigh-ins. Weili and Jingliang have more time before their bouts in Las Vegas, and their teams hope visas won’t be an issue.