Since the coronavirus pandemic started, the UFC has largely resigned itself to a couple specific locations including Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi.
While hope springs eternal that the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine might bring audiences back to large, indoor sporting events at some point in 2021, the UFC has remained committed to events only taking place in a couple places until now.
According to UFC president Dana White, the return of strawweight champion Zhang Weili could be accompanied by the promotion potentially taking a shot closer to her home country in China. He teased the possible move during an interview with ESPN where White talked about what comes next for Zhang after last competing in March 2020.
“We’re working on her, too,” White said about Zhang. “Obviously, the fight that everybody wants to see is her and Rose [Namajunas]. Hopefully we can get that done. If not, the next one in line would probably be Carla Esparza. We’re looking at doing that fight this year and in Asia.”
Of course, Zhang gained massive notoriety in her home country after finishing Jessica Andrade in impressive fashion to become the first Chinese-born UFC champion in 2019. She then competed in arguably the greatest fight in women’s MMA history when she clashed with former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a five-round slugfest this past year.
Zhang hasn’t fought since then but White seems to believe that the UFC could allow her the opportunity to compete closer to home with a possible show in Asia this year.
Before that can be determined, the UFC first has to book her next opponent with Rose Namajunas as the most likely candidate after she defeated Andrade in a back-and-forth battle in her last appearance.
Ongoing negotiations had White casting doubts on Namajunas actually receiving that title shot but her team has remained hopeful that all sides can eventually come to an agreement. If not, Esparza is obviously waiting in the wings as the former champion looks to build on her recent four-fight win streak.