The UFC Strawweights have a new Queen, i.e. Weili Zhang! It might be hard for many to comprehend that she isn’t in fact from North or South America, neither from Europe or Africa, but from Asia. When a motivated Zhang cracked the Brazilian Jessica Andrade’s chin with a solid shot, all the while carefully backing up from an onrushing Andrade, and then punishing her with a flurry of elbows and knees from a Thai clinch, the referee just had to step in and stop the fight. 42 seconds was all it took for Zhang to almost nonchalantly win the biggest fight of her career.
What makes this feat even more impressive is the fact that Zhang is somewhat of a newcomer to the UFC and within a year she briskly climbed up the strawweight ladder and snatched the belt from a gritty veteran.
It should also be noted that while Zhang has only had four fights in the UFC, she does have a phenomenal professional record of 20-1. She is on a mammoth 20 fight win streak since losing her professional debut and needless to say that, her performance against the Brazilian will just add to her saga of invincibility.
Zhang not only became the first Chinese to have UFC gold around her waist, but also the UFC’s first Asian champion!
The UFC President Dana White and other company officials must be merrily and blissfully popping open champagne bottles and celebrating because Zhang might be the best thing to happen to the promotion since a certain charismatic Irishman, named Conor McGregor burst onto the scene in 2013.
Zhang’s victory has solved a major conundrum for the UFC. With One Championship on their backs, the UFC had been trying to expand their business into the relatively untapped Asian market while also protecting their current market share from the ever-increasing threat of One. However, the fact that One is an Asian promotion with plenty of Asian fighters such as Angela Lee being its face had halted the UFC’s Asian conquest.
In their defense, the UFC did cater to the MMA appetite of 1.4 billion Chinese people by occasionally hosting Fight Night events in the country. They also brought in a talented pool of Asian fighters (mostly Chinese) on their roster to compete in these Asian UFC events. However, what they lacked was a dominant Chinese or Asian fighter who could be the UFC’s poster child and their biggest cash cow for that market. Zhang, now that she is a UFC champion, has become the promotion’s poster-girl in Asia.
The UFC can now funnel even more dollars into opening more Performance Institutes in Asia, into hosting more Fight Nights and probably even a PPV card. Dana White now holds the key to unlocking a vast and relatively untouched market with more than 2 billion potential stakeholders. Zhang might just have conquered all of Asia for the UFC!
Zhang’s victory will inspire plenty of other Asian people to dream that with enough hard work and talent even they can fight inside the octagon, that even they can hold that coveted gold belt. From little children to young adults, everyone in China has someone to look up to now, someone whose success they would like to replicate. She has given them hope and taught them how to dream.
Weili Zhang, remember the name. Because she might become one of the biggest stars this sport has ever seen.