Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk put on an instant classic in the co-main even of UFC 248 on Saturday night in Las Vegas, and it couldn’t have made UFC president Dana White a happier man.
Zhang defended her throne via split decision after 25 minutes of hard-fought action in the eight-sided cage, increasing her winning streak to 21 with a win over the woman that once reigned as the best 115-pound fighter on the planet.
“I knew that that fight was gonna be ridiculous,” White said at the post-fight press conference at T-Mobile Arena. “You have these two incredibly talented savages who wanted that belt more than anything. I didn’t know if there was gonna be a knockout or a submission or something like that, but I was begging people to watch that fight [laughs].
“You know me, man, when I sell fights I don’t beg anybody to watch anything, I was literally begging people to watch this fight. And it was, it was incredible.”
The judges disagreed on who won the fight, but White admits he was way too excited to actually score every round as they went.
“I was so into that fight I didn’t really score,” White said. “Me and (Robert) Downey Jr. were like giddy little girls getting ready for that fight. I think we were both feeling like it was even going into the fifth round, but I honestly couldn’t tell you. I really didn’t score, I was caught up in it.”
In the end, regardless of who should have won, White agrees with those who considered it the greatest women’s MMA bout of all time.
“It’s one of the best fights I’ve ever seen,” White said. “Right here, off the top of my head, I would have to say yes, best women’s fight I’ve ever seen, one of the best fights I’ve ever seen.”
With Tatiana Suarez currently healing from a neck injury and former champions Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas set to rematch, White wouldn’t go on record to say what’s next for the strawweight queen, but he foresees a promotional path taken for previous superstars like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey to make Zhang a huge asset for the company.
“We always knew she was special,” White said. “We knew she was special, and we started moving her the way you move somebody you think is special. … Tonight, she went in against the best ever from that division, the woman who built that division, defended that belt five times, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk came in ridiculous, incredible shape. The amount of experience she has over Weili Zhang is massive, and you saw how good she looked tonight.
“I only expect her to get better, look better. And I think she made a lot of fans tonight. She got a good pop from the crowd when she walked out, the fans were behind her, and she murdered it in China, which is more important to me than the U.S., you know? Great people like her in the U.S., I love it — I want people to like her everywhere, but China was a huge success. We will continue to move her around.”
White said “there’s a certain pattern” to follow when you’re building a fighter into a star, and next step would be “probably take her to New York” and defend her belt at Madison Square Garden.
“We did it with Conor McGregor, we’ve done it with Ronda, we’ve done it with all the greats,” White said, “and we’re gonna do it with her.
“She’s gonna be a massive star. The fighting sport is so crazy you gotta keep winning. If you keep winning, you’re gonna be a star.”