Having gone on a 21 fight winning streak that culminated in her winning and defending the UFC strawweight title, Weili Zhang is coming off back to back losses. Psychologically it is a difficult moment for the 32 year old who gave a very revealing interview in China recently.

She was knocked out after 78 seconds by Rose Namajunas at UFC 261 and admits it took her a long time to come to terms with this defeat,

“It really took a very, very long time. I think it was after I came to the US when I finally got over it – in the training camp when my mindset changed a great deal for real. After the first fight, when it ended that fast, the grief I felt inside was almost unbearable.”

Weili Zhang 6

Still painful

The training camp in question took place in Arizona. She worked with former flyweight champion Henry Cejudo to prepare for the rematch with Namajunas at UFC 268.

But Zhang, who was speaking in Mandarin to a man dressed as a unicorn, says the first loss still haunted her during preparation for the rematch,

“Think about it, we went to a place that far and brought the whole team then the fight ended as soon as it started. It was agony. It was still painful after we got back. It felt then I could be alright at one moment, like, it is what it is. Then sometimes I’d think about it again and it still hurts, I still struggle to accept it.”

Henry Cejudo training with Weili Zhang

New understanding

The rematch was a different story. At UFC 268 she went the distance with Namajunas and was very unfortunate not to get the nod from the judges.

It will go down as a split decision defeat. But Zhang, who has only just come out of quarantine in China, sees it as a valuable learning experience,

“I gained a whole new understanding of the sport. That’s when I feel like my mindset and everything else changed for real. I find that if you don’t go through those failures, setbacks, and losses you will never be able to grow.”

Zhang believes she has grown up a lot as a result of the defeats. She might have lost a title but in the process the Chinese fighter says she has been ‘enlightened’,

“After I finally experienced it then I think back on everything I’ve been through in the past it felt like I grew up all of a sudden. When you finally get it, you feel enlightened.”