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It’s easy to see now why Weili Zhang is a world-class talent and a UFC champion.
But before Zhang (20-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) captured the strawweight title from Jessica Andrade (20-7 MMA, 11-5 UFC), UFC president Dana White said other UFC fighters knew she was someone to avoid if they wanted to move up.
“Everybody in line, up to Weili Zhang, had fights or couldn’t fight or didn’t want to fight,” White said after Zhang’s stunning 42-second stoppage of Andrade in the UFC on ESPN+ 15 main event. “I said it at the (pre-fight) press conference: Nobody wanted to fight (Zhang). Nobody wanted to fight her.
“Everybody can say what they want. I called a lot of people that said no, they don’t want to fight Weili Zhang. Jessica Andrade said, ‘I’ll do it, and I’ll come (to China),’ recipocating after (Rose) Namajunas went down to Brazil when she had the title.”
Andrade was then the beneficiary of Namajunas’ generosity, fighting her way to a second-round knockout that won her the strawweight title. But Saturday, her eagerness to engage cost her as she marched in to a flurry of punches, elbows and knees that felled her inside the first minute.
Zhang is China’s first UFC champion at a time when the promotion is attempting to expand its reach in Asia. A new Performance Institute in Shanghai recently opened to serve as a rehabilitation center for the promotion’s Asian fighters and also cultivate new talent.
For White, the strategic importance of Zhang’s win is also backed by a hard-working attitude. And it doesn’t hurt she likes his personal heroes.
“She literally just came into my dressing room in the back and said, ‘I’ll fight as much as you want me to. I’m ready to go,’” White said. “You know I love that attitude. She’s going to make a massive impact (in China). She’s obviously very good, and a very talented woman. Her personality, everything.
“I already have people from WME calling me with deals for her – she’s already getting offers for deals. So it’s big. It’s really big. And she’s a Tom Brady fan – just when you think she can’t get any more perfect, she’s a Tom Brady fan.”
The New England Patriots superstar broke from his schedule to wish Zhang well before her title fight, a nice shoutout courtesy of his connection to UFC owner Endeavor. Zhang wasn’t a big underdog heading into Saturday’s fight, but she needed all the help she could get in promoting her name.
Now, Zhang said through a translator after her win, she doesn’t have that problem any more.
“I think they’ll all want to fight me because I’m the champion,” she said.
News | MMA Junkie