Weili Zhang is currently the sixth-ranked UFC strawweight. It was something of a surprise when she was handed a title shot, but the 30-year-old is the only fighter in the division currently riding a 19-fight winning streak.
She challenges champion Jessica Andrade at UFC on ESPN+ 15 on Saturday in Shenzhen, China . Zhang feels she has more than earned her opportunity to fight for the belt.
“I was excited when I heard about this chance, but I think it is reasonable that I got recognized by UFC for my effort,” said Zhang.
On paper, Andrade is the best opponent Zhang has ever faced. The champion is a veteran of 15 UFC fights, but the Chinese challenger feels she has faced similar caliber fighters in the past.
“She is definitely a strong opponent, good strength, and (has) many skills. Every opponent has her own unique features. I won’t say Jessica is the best, but she is a very challenging one for sure.”
One factor that will definitely be in Zhang’s favor is the location. The fight is taking place in Shenzhen and she is guaranteed to get a rapturous reception from the fans in what will be only the third UFC card to ever take place in mainland China.
“It is an advantage for me. I don’t need to worry about jet leg, nor my coach and my team’s visa. I’ve trained in a familiar environment, and I feel supported and encouraged by my family, friends, and all the Chinese fans.”
Andrade is based in Brazil and there is a laundry list of issues the champion could potentially face. Zhang hopes to pose the newly crowned 115-pound champion some even bigger problems and is determined to do the job inside the distance.
“I will seize every opportunity that comes to me to finish it, in any and every way possible.”
Having tasted victory at UFC Fight Night 141 in Beijing last year, Zhang knows exactly how much it means to the Chinese crowd to see local athletes win. No one from her country has ever won a UFC belt, so she stands on the cusp of a historic achievement.
The Chinese strawweight feels she is fighting for something even bigger than herself. With the UFC expanding rapidly in China, she wants to win this title for the sake of her country and her sport.
“I believe it will be really encouraging for MMA’s development in China if I win. It will help to promote the sport.”
Tune in for full UFC on ESPN+ 15: Andrade vs. Zhang live results from Shenzhen, China, on Aug. 31 on MMAWeekly.com. UFC strawweight champion Jessica Andrade will make the first defense of her title against Weili Zhang. Andrade is the favorite, but faces a tough fight with Zhang having the opportunity to become China’s first UFC champion.