The gloves are off! Weili Zhang has been unleashing her elbows in training as she prepares to face Carla Esparza at UFC 281 in November.

The former UFC strawweight champion shared a video of her working with long term trainer John Yodpetch at Bang Tao Muay Thai in Phuket. Zhang is clearly working hard on her Muay Thai skills as she unleashes a barrage of elbows and knees:

Long term

Zhang won her last fight with a spinning back fist, knocking out Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 275. It is not a strike typically associated with Muay Thai but the 33 year old prepared for that fight in Phuket and has been there ever since.

She appears to have decided to base herself in Thailand long term. No sooner had Zhang knocked out the former champion in their rematch then she was on a plane to Phuket and back in training for her title shot.

That title shot has now been made official by the UFC. Zhang will be taking on Esparza at Madison Square Garden in New York on November 12th in a fight that co-headlines the pay per view card.

Bad memories

It is a venue that probably has bad memories for Zhang. She dropped split decision to Rose Namajunas there at UFC 268 last November and afterwards described the feeling as ‘unbearable’.

But a year is a long time in MMA. Namajunas’ stock has fallen dramatically after a lackluster split decision loss to Esparza at UFC 274 while Zhang is riding high after her bonus winning performance in Singapore.

Bang Tao Muay Thai only opened its doors earlier this year but has already proved popular with UFC fighters. Loma Lookboonmee, who fights at UFC Vegas 60 this weekend, is based there permanently and Ji Yeon Kim and Jiri Prochazka have also prepared for fights there.

Zhang appears to have turned her career around since relocating to Phuket and will be hoping to recapture the strawweight title later this year. Esparza had better watch out for those elbows!