Weili Zhang decided to press ahead with UFC 248 title defence despite coronavirus chaos
Weili Zhang defends her strawweight title for the first time at UFC 248 this weekend. Due to the coronavirus situation in China she had to endure a chaotic training camp that tested her both physically and mentally.
Zhang is scheduled to put her belt on the line against Poland’s Joanna Jedrzejczyk in Las Vegas on Saturday night (local time). But preparations for this fight have been far from ideal.
She had to flee her home city of Beijing and make an unscheduled trip to Thailand due to the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has claimed more than 2,000 lives.
The 30-year-old finally got the green light to enter the U.S. on February 22nd and will be wrapping up her preparations at the UFC Performance Institute.
Zhang did not hold back when she recounted her emotional three-week journey to Las Vegas.
“I was in camp when I got the news they suspended flights going to America from China. Then I received a text from my manager that same morning, telling me to leave China as soon as possible,” she shared through a translator.
“I thought that it was a dream or a scene in the movies. I didn’t even know where to train and finish my camp. The whole experience was very similar to the life of a refugee. It is like what I see in the news,” Zhang added.
Her manager Brian Butler worked closely with the UFC to address the matter. Zhang breathed a sigh of relief when she and her team received clearance to board a flight going to the U.S. a few weeks later.
She had considered cancelling the fight and it was her mother who encouraged Zhang to go ahead,
“She told me there were a lot of people in China fighting the virus, and I shouldn’t be the one complaining just because I needed to travel around. She said those doctors and nurses didn’t even have time to sleep, and that I should be grateful and overcome the difficulties. My mother’s words gave me a lot of confidence at that time,” she said.
Though she has dealt with a tremendous degree of stress Zhang says she is still in peak condition heading into UFC 248,
“The thing that frustrated me the most was the jet lag. It would take a few days to wear off. Right now, I’m feeling good physically and mentally. I think everything is fine,” she stated.
After dealing with so many unexpected complications Zhang is now firmly focused on the fight with former champion Jedrzejczyk. She thinks a win would be the perfect way to inspire and uplift all those affected by the outbreak in China,
“All of us face difficulties. If I win, it will mean a lot to my people. It would be a great thing if I could help inspire them and give them confidence. This fight is for China,” she declared.