Weili
Zhang
outclassed Carla
Esparza
in all aspects of their UFC
281
co-main event bout on the way to reclaiming the strawweight
throne with a second-round submission victory.

According to the Chinese star, it was all part of the plan.

“This fight played out exactly what we expected,” Zhang said at
Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “Me, as a fighter, if
you’re a wrestler: OK, let’s wrestle. If you’re a jiu-jitsu player:
OK, let’s roll. If you’re a striker: Let’s fight in the standup.
That’s how I get improved and prove myself against the best of the
best.

“When she landed a couple of punches, I felt nothing, and that’s
why I smiled,” she added. “There was completely no threat from her
striking, and that also made more relaxed, more calm.”

Zhang initially became strawweight queen in shocking fashion, when
she stopped Jessica
Andrade
in 42 seconds at UFC Fight Night 157 in August 2019.
She defended the belt once in an instant classic against Joanna
Jedrzejczyk
before relinquishing the strap to Rose
Namajunas
at UFC 261. Zhang also dropped a rematch to Namajunas
at UFC 268 late last year. 2022 has marked a resurgence for the
Fight Ready representative with emphatic finishes against
Jedrzejczyk and Esparza.

“I’m very happy for this moment,” Zhang said. “I prepared for this
moment for a very long time. Every single day, I motivated myself:
‘I will return to the top.’”

Now that she is back on top, Zhang has designs on defending her
title on home soil.

“If we can do it, if the UFC can do it, I hope I can defend my
title next year in China,” Zhang said. “A billion Chinese MMA fans,
they are looking for a big pay-per-view event in China.”

Zhang’s first championship victory took place in Shenzhen, China,
and she believes interest in the sport has increased in her home
country since then.

“I think since I won the belt the first time there are more and
more young Chinese people, more girls, more women starting to
participate in this sport,” Zhang said. “MMA has developed very
fast in China, from the UFC PI Shanghai in China in 2019. I also
want to say thanks to the UFC. They give all the fighters and this
sport massive support, like the UFC PI. They take care of me a lot,
whether in Shanghai or Las Vegas. So I do appreciate that we have
an MMA promotion like the UFC. They do help us a lot.”

As far as her next opponent, Zhang doesn’t have a preference.

“They’re all good fighters,” Weili said. “I’ll just see what the
UFC wants. I’ll be waiting for the call and discuss with them which
one is better for me.”





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Weili Zhang Wants to Defend UFC Title at Pay-Per-View Event in China

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