It did not take long for China’s Weili Zhang to reach the apex of the talent-filled strawweight division in the UFC.

In just her fourth bout under the promotion’s banner Zhang captured the strawweight championship. She stopped Brazilian hard-hitter Jessica Andrade in 42 seconds at UFC Shenzhen last month.

Many world champions and title contenders launch their careers in a blaze of glory. But Zhang was not so fortunate. In fact, her first professional sanctioned bout was more like a baptism by fire.

“The first one was the hardest. I can still remember that I was super excited because it’s my first fight in MMA, but at the same time, I could also feel the nerves getting into me. It was an experience that I will never forget,” she admitted.

Heartbreaking defeat

Zhang fought fellow debutant Bo Meng, who went on to defeat her by way of unanimous decision.

Although she started her run in the sport with a heartbreaking defeat Zhang decided to view the loss as a valuable learning experience,

“I knew I could do it. I had faith in my heart. I wanted to do something different, and it was more challenging,”

She credits a can do attitude with relaunching her MMA career,

“I am a person who likes to challenge myself, who wants to soar higher and further. So I challenge myself to make what is impossible, possible. Even if there is no hope for success, I try my best to create that hope.”

Motivated to succeed

The possibility of defeat motivated Zhang and made her more determined to succeed,

“It made me like MMA more. That excitement, that thrill, I was hooked on it. I kept wanting to train more and get better, and then as soon as they said I had another fight, I was down for it,” Zhang added.

Zhang rose like a phoenix from the flames, winning match after match and eventually led to her capturing the Kunlun Fight and Top FC strawweight belts.

“There were some other girls, but they did not make it to the end. They gave it up. I was not treated differently but I never give up on what I really want.”

Her sheer dominance at the regional level caught the attention of the Las Vegas-based promotion and she put pen to paper on a UFC contract last year.

In August, 2018 Zhang made her maiden UFC appearance and defeated former King Of The Cage titlist Danielle Taylor via unanimous decision. She won her next three fights, culminating in last month’s title win at the expense of Andrade.

Winning streak

That maiden loss must feel like a long time again but Zhang certainly hasn’t forgotten the feeling,

“I started my career with a loss, but it didn’t hinder me from turning my dream into reality. I want everyone to look at my story and be inspired. If you fall down, you must get back up and fight,” Zhang stated.

The decision to award her a title shot was not met with universal approval. Several fighters felt they were passed over and they will all be hungry for a shot at the newly crowned champion.

For Zhang the hard work is far from over and she’s determined to keep that winning streak alive, no matter how high the stakes have become,

“I am not letting go of the title. I worked very hard to be where I am at right now. If they want this, they can try. But I will make sure that this belt stays with me for a very long time.”