Weili Zhang would be down to have a third crack at Rose Namajunas. The reigning strawweight champion has faced the American on two previous occasions and has come up short both times.

Zhang was knocked out in the opening round at UFC 261. She was on the receiving end of a hostile reception from the fans in Florida and admitted afterwards it has affected her.

The pair rematched at UFC 268. This time around Zhang gave a much better account of herself and the split decision win for Namajunas was controversial and hotly debated.

Namajunas would go on to lose to Carla Esparza and Zhang told the MMA Hour she had a lot of sympathy for her former opponent,

“I experienced the same thing. Once you become the champ, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on you to hold onto the belt and I felt the same thing before. So I kind of understand what she went through.”

Down the road

Namajunas didn’t just lose the belt, she also lost a lot of fans after putting on one of the most lacklustre performances in UFC title history. Zhang doesn’t believe that the American set out to make it a boring fight,

“I think that Rose wanted to keep the belt and have a pleasant fight, and that’s impossible.”

Despite being 0-2 against Namajunas the Chinese strawweight is well ahead of her. She holds the title and there is not much appetite to see Namajunas fight again, let along have her fight for the belt.

But she remains the only fighter Zhang has ever lost to and the 33 year old is convinced their paths will cross again,

“I still want to meet her again for sure, maybe not immediately, the next title defense. But we’ll definitely run into each other down the road,” she said.

No pressure

After stopping Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 275 and Carla Esparza at UFC 281 she certainly doesn’t feel any pressure. Zhang has well and truly earned the title with her performances and says the only fighter she compares herself to these days is herself,

“I don’t have pressure now. I want to surpass myself, go beyond the old version of Weili. The belt itself is just something that’s evidence for me to show that I keep on improving. That’s the way that I look at it now.”

Khabib Nurmagomedov managed to retire as an undefeated UFC champion but is it an achievement that is unlikely to ever be replicated. Zhang knows what it feels like to lose and she knows that one day she will lost the belt.

“Obviously, you can’t be the champ forever, regardless of who you are. I understand that (but) whatever happens, right now I can just focus on moving forward.”