Title challenger Weili Zhang reveals fighters who refused to face her
Title challenger Weili Zhang could become the first Chinese UFC champion – and she seems to have no qualms about revealing her path to the title.
The UFC will hold the promotion’s sixth event in China with UFC on ESPN+ 15, and it will be one of the biggest events held in that country so far. Breakout Chinese star Weili Zhang is undefeated since a loss in her debut in 2012, and has been awarded a title shot following her three straight, impressive wins in the UFC.
The announcement was somewhat unexpected, as Zhang surely has impressed – but lacks name recognition and mainstream appeal. She’s only had three fights in the UFC during nearly two years in the promotion, but the reasons for that have been made all the more clear.
In a recent interview with MMA Junkie Zhang spoke about the problems she’s had with finding opponents willing to fight her.
“Three people turned me down…”
“After my fight at UFC 235, I was ranked at No. 7 (in the UFC rankings). Ahead of me in the rankings, only two people at the time were the ones who did not have fights – fifth-ranked [Claudia] Gadelha, and second-ranked Joanna [Jedrzejczyk]. I was very excited at the time, but both of them turned down a fight with me before and after.
“After the two rejections, my mentality was still very peaceful and I felt that there was no problem,” Zhang said. “Later, there was another seventh-ranked one who refused a fight with me. So three people turned me down, which made me feel a little lost.”
As of now the seventh ranked fighter in the UFC strawweight division is Michelle Waterson, who has held that ranking since April this year. Though not named outright, there’s a good chance Zhang is referring to Waterson, who is now booked to face Jedrzejczyk.
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While trying to stay both motivated and prepared, Zhang’s team received the life-changing phone call in which she was offered a title shot, and the rest is history.
If her claims are correct, it is telling that experienced and seasoned fighters like the above mentioned refused to face Zhang. While a slight underdog against reigning champion Jessica Andrade, there’s good reason the UFC gave Zhang the chance to fight for the title on home soil.