UFC boss Dana White was in Shanghai to unveil the new UFC Performance Institute and had a few words on UFC’s rising China star Zhang Weili and her fast-track to the strawweight title.
“Nobody wants to fight her [Zhang],” White said.
“She keep saying when do I get to fight again? Nobody wants to fight her. We call Jessica Andrade and she says I will absolutely fight her and I’ll fight her in China.”
Asked about the timing of the title shot, given Zhang has had just three – although dominant – fights in the UFC, White was adamant it was the fight to make.
“Does it come in time for the opening of the Performance Institute? Yes it does. But this is the fight people want to see. She’s on a 19 fight win streak.”
The fight is set to go down in Shenzhen on 31 August as the headline of the UFC’s third card in China.
It will also go down in history as the first time a Chinese fighter has fought for a title belt in the world’s premier MMA promotion.
Speaking at Thursday’s press conference, Zhang said she was ready to seize the opportunity.
“The chance is right in front of me so I need to seize the opportunity,” she said. “At first I was excited but now I have calmed down myself.”
The 29-year-old from Hebei will take a 19-1 record into the Octagon against the 27-year-old Andrade, who’s coming off her stunning destruction of the previous title-holder American Rose “Thug” Namajunas (8-4) at UFC 237 in May.
Ranked sixth in the strawweight division, Zhang has impressed on her 3-0 run in the UFC so far, after a barnstorming run through China’s domestic promotions that helped set up an unbeaten run that stretches
While some fans expected the UFC to throw Andrade back into the cage against number one-ranked Namajunas, or even against the surging number two ranked Tatiana Suarez (8-0), Zhang has two factors in her corner.
She’s all action and full of potential inside the cage, and, outside the metal, she has a nation of more than 1.6 billion people behind her.
Shenzhen will mark the UFC’s third foray into mainland China, following successful Fight Nights in Shanghai and in Beijing.
While both of those cards came with a heavy local presence, Shenzhen will mark the first time – anywhere – that a Chinese fighter has headlined a UFC event.
“I have to grab this chance,” said Zhang.
“Ever since I started in MMA I have told myself I have go in there with 100 per cent determination. I have to have a strong will. I will not give up and I will give myself 100 per cent in this upcoming fight.
Another name set to appear on the Shenzhen card is the popular Chinese welterweight Li “The Leech” Jingliang (16-5), who’s on a 2-0 run and has bounced back from a back injury that forced him off the UFC Fight Night 150 card in April.
He told Asia MMA Thursday he was signed on – and now we wait to find out who he going to face.