Weili Zhang finds herself in a very fortunate position. She is on the cusp of logging her name into history books as the first Chinese mixed martial artist to ever win a title in the UFC.
The 30-year-old native of Heibei, China is slated to challenge strawweight queen Jessica Andrade in the headliner of UFC Fight Night 157, at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre Arena this Saturday.
“It is such a great opportunity to be in this position. Every fighter dreams to become a champion. If I win, I will make history as the first Chinese UFC champion. I am not going down that easy in this bout. I promise,” Zhang said.
Zhang is more than motivated to pull off the improbable upset as she knows that the hometown crowd will be behind her in the scheduled five-round championship clash against Andrade,
“To make history is already fulfilling as an athlete, but to do it in front of your hometown crowd is beyond special. I’ll do my best to capture the UFC strawweight title. I want my fans to be proud of me,” she said.
Of her last 20 matches as a pro 13 took place in mainland China and she suffered only one loss during that near six year span. Zhang had a successful homecoming bout at UFC Fight Night 141, submitting former WOSF titleholder Jessica Aguilar with a first round armbar.
Although an uphill battle awaits her as she tries to win a UFC title Zhang believes the support of the crowd will be vital,
“I feel very inspired every time I hear the crowd cheering and chanting my name. The feeling is priceless, and it gives me added strength both physically and mentally. I know that my opponent is a great champion, but I’m very motivated about heading to this match. I won’t let my fans down,” she said.
Zhang knows that she will need to be at her best against Andrade, who is no stranger to facing elite opposition. The champion owns a commendable professional record of 20-6, with 14 of those wins coming inside the distance.
Hard and strong
Andrade has won seven of her last eight trips to the octagon, with her only setback during that period coming in a five-round decision defeat to then-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. She won the belt with a quickfire slam knockout of Rose Namajunas at UFC 237.
“I need to take my game to the next level because Jessica Andrade comes out hard, and she is strong for a fighter,” Zhang said.
But despite her opponent’s outstanding résumé Zhang remains confident that she can be more than a match for the champion,
“It will be a really exciting fight, whether it stays on our feet or goes to the ground. I will not be underestimating her. It will be challenging to go up against one of the top fighters in the sport. But it will be nice to see how I fare against an athlete of her caliber,” she said.
She knows that the support of the Chinese fans will be vital and issued a rallying call to her compatriots ahead of UFC Shenzhen,
“I know that this won’t be an easy task, but my team and I have a perfect game plan for this fight. I’m in the best shape of my life, and with the crowd behind me, expect the best Weili Zhang on August 31st. Come out and support me. Together, we can make history in the UFC,” she concluded.