UFC women’s strawweight champion Zhang Weili appears to be a vastly important part of the UFC’s plans for world domination. Yahoo Sports MMA writer Kevin Iole went so far recently as to label the 30-year-old as the “Trojan Horse for the UFC in China”.
Per Iole, that’s why statues of both Zhang and UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, who began his fighting career competing in China, adorn the lobby of the Performance Institute in Shanghai.
Iole writes, “The UFC wants to leverage the increased interest in MMA that came as a result of Zhang’s victory (over Jessica Andrade for the title) and turn it into bigger events with more and better Chinese fighters.”
China’s first-ever UFC champion Zhang faces former strawweight titleholder Joanna Jedrzejczyk Saturday night in the co-main event at UFC 248 in Las Vegas. But Zhang’s fight camp didn’t quite go as expected.
Zhang Admits Tough Assignment Due to Coronavirus Outbreak
Zhang told Iole through her striking coach, Tommy Wang, who served as an interpreter, that the coronavirus outbreak that forced the champion to move her training camp wasn’t easy to deal with heading into her first title defense.
“Saying it didn’t affect my camp or my preparation would be a lie,” Zhang said. “Definitely, I got affected a little bit, but it’s a part of life.”
But Zhang suggested the difficult situation might have also helped her focus on training.
“I might not have pushed myself or prepared as hard if not for the coronavirus,” Zhang said. “China is going through a very tough time now, but everybody is doing their job. I did my job to make this happen and I believe winning will be great motivation for my country. I’m doing this for my people.”
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Best Zhang Ever at UFC 248?
Both Iole and UFC president Dana White lavished praise on Zhang this week during UFC 248 fight week activities.
“Have you watched her training?” White asked a small group of reporters per Iole. “They had a video of her punching the other day. And I’m telling you right now, she throws punches better than 99.9 percent of the men that I’ve ever known in my entire career.”
Iole added, “At an open workout, she lifted her T-shirt to display an incredibly muscled abdomen. It didn’t get that way while sitting outside, texting on her phone.”
Iole clearly sees Zhang as a fighter headed into UFC 248 yet in incredible shape.
Zhang’s Win Would Be Timely for China and the World
Zhang and the people of China were dealing with the coronavirus outbreak well before it touched American soil. So Zhang seems fit to carry the burden of fighting for those affected across the world in the same way that other sporting figures and teams have done so in the past after similar disasters.
No, beating Joanna Jedrzejczyk wouldn’t do anything measurable to help health officials across the globe contain the spread of the disease. But the thrill of seeing a fighter deal with the situation in her own way with courage and conviction might offer some people in the world a needed break from the struggles of dealing with the mounting difficulties caused by its spread.