Weili Zhang will defend the strawweight belt against Amanda Lemos in the co-main event at UFC 292. She has looked back to her best in her last two outings but before the high came a low.

Zhang first won the title in 2019 but was brought crashing down to earth with back-to-back losses to Rose Namajunas. She was clearly devastated by these defeats and had no prospect of securing a third fight with the champion.

But Zhang did not dwell on these defeats. She decided to take a different mental approach and believes that this is what propelled her back to the summit of the strawweight division,

“Attitude is more important than physical strength. After I lost twice to Rose Namajunas, I adjusted my mindset. I believed in myself. I believed in my coaching team that we would be back,” she told UFC Countdown.

Attitude adjustment

Since this attitude adjustment Zhang has had nothing but success, She knocked out former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 275 to earn another shot at the belt, which was now the property of Carla Esparza.

Zhang would go on to submit the new champion in the second round at UFC 281. She is riding high ahead of this weekend’s fight in Boston but her coach, Cai Xuejun, thinks the back to back losses to Namajunas were the making of his star pupil.

“We did a lot of things but kept failing. Then we learned from those failures and Weili slowly became who she is now. We feel proud about it,” he said.

It wasn’t just her attitude which changed. Zhang decided to relocate permanently to Phuket in order to live and train at Bang Tao Muay Thai and the move has paid dividends.

It has come at a cost though. Zhang admits to suffering from bouts of homesickness and yearning for some creature comforts,

“Sometimes I miss my family, my hometown food (but) we come together cooking Chinese food. It relieves my homesickness when we make dumplings, noodles, steam stuffed bun and other classic food from my hometown. Like family, we cook together almost everyday,” she said.

Back to basics

But the sacrifices must all feel worthwhile when she has her hand raised, something which has happened twice since Zhang moved to Phuket. Her last disclosed purse was $250,000 USD for the win over Jędrzejczyk at UFC 248 in 2020.

Since then she has fought four times and picked up two more $50,000 USD bonuses. Zhang must be earning serious money but she is definitely not going on any lavish spending sprees in Phuket.

The 34 year old prefers to keep things simple and says she has gone back to basics in Phuket,

“I can stay focused here. Life is simple. Nothing but eating, sleeping and training.”

Zhang turned 34 last week and must be coming towards the end of her career. There will be plenty of time for her to enjoy her earnings once she is retired but for the time being the strawweight champion is laser focused on defending her belt at UFC 292.