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Yan Xiaonan expects Zhang Weili title fight next, believes she has ‘more haters’ in China than fans

Yan Xiaonan may have just set the stage for the biggest UFC event ever held in China.

Yan pulled off one of the most explosive highlights of this past weekend with her dramatic first-round knockout of Jessica Andrade at UFC 288. With a 6-2 record over eight octagon appearances and back-to-back victories over Andrade and Mackenzie Dern, Yan is now one of the top contenders in the UFC’s strawweight division.

UFC President Dana White voiced interest at Saturday’s post-fight press conference in booking Yan against her countrywoman Zhang Weili for a potential trip to China. According to Yan, White expressed a similar sentiment to her backstage after the fight.

“I met Dana in the locker room after the fight and he said, ‘Let’s do it in China.’ So if we can make a UFC China event happen, let’s pull it up,” Yan said Monday on The MMA Hour.

“I think it’s possible, yeah, probably at some point at the end of this year, because China is fully open [now], everything is back to normal. So I think yeah, it’s possible and very likely.”

Yan said the Mercedes-Benz Arena in China’s most populous city of Shanghai makes sense as a potential venue for the title showdown. The UFC previously visited the venue in late 2017 for its debut show in mainland China, which was headlined by Kelvin Gastelum’s first-round knockout win over Michael Bisping in Bisping’s final MMA fight.

Yan also reiterated comments she made in her UFC 288 post-fight press conference that she believes Zhang will be the heavy rooting favorite for Chinese fans.

“I think I have more haters [in China] than people who like me. They only know who is the champion, and they don’t want to know about others,” Yan said.

“Because Weili is the champion, she’s the hero for our nation, so a lot people can only see her, but just cannot see other fighters. So they may just underestimate me, and I just cannot share the love from the fans with Weili because she’s a champion. But this time I just want to show everybody what I can do in the cage and shut everybody up.”

Yan may not be feeling the love from her countrymen and countrywomen, but she said her and Zhang have always had positive relationship built upon supporting each other, even if fans on social media have occasionally tried to drive a wedge between them.

“Our relationship is good and very healthy, so we talk with each other and each time before her fight or my fight, we’ll say good luck to each other,” Yan said. “But some people on social media, they just want to twist the reality and try to create some tension and beef in us, and amplify that to let the audience feel that we have problems with each other.”

For now, Yan is just soaking in the moment. She called her knockout of Andrade “the happiest moment” of all her UFC wins, and now she’s eager to turn her attention to what will easily be the biggest MMA fight ever held between two Chinese fighters.

“I just showed everybody how strong I am, and I just also showed everybody that I have improved,” Yan said.

“I think it’s going to be a very exciting fight and that will make people in China crazy. I think fans will definitely love this fight, because it’s me and Weili, two girls from China fight for the gold — we are the No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, we are the best of the best.”

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