The UFC has yet to return to China following UFC Shenzhen, the Fight Night event that saw Zhang Weili defeat Jéssica Andrade via first-round TKO to become the first Chinese UFC champion. That was one of the final international UFC events to happen for a while due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the promotion has since started returning to countries it has held previous events, such as Brazil and the United Kingdom.
And after UFC 288 this past Saturday, China is officially on the shortlist for countries the UFC expects to return to soon. Following her first-round TKO of Jéssica Andrade, Chinese fighter Yan Xiaonan set up a potential championship opportunity against the aforementioned Weili, with one caveat.
“I think if both of us can represent the growth of the females from China at the highest levels of MMA, represent the highest levels of this sport, I think this is the pride,” said Xiaonan through her translator in her post-fight interview. “We’re proud of our country. So, Dana, let’s make it happen.”
Dana White impressed with Yan Xiaonan after UFC 288
White was impressed with Xiaonan, especially since he saw her win coming due to the play-by-play he was receiving from legendary trainer Teddy Atlas.
“What’s crazy is Teddy Atlas was sitting me with during that fight and Andrade kept throwing lead left hooks and he said, ‘If [Xiaonan] throws great straight right hands. If [Andrade] keeps throwing that lead left hook, [Xiaonan] is going to knock her out with a straight right hand,’” said White at his post-fight press conference. “He literally called exactly what was going to happen. And [Andrade] threw like three hooks in a row — he literally called it two minutes before it happen because she kept throwing these lead left hooks.”
As far as Weili vs. Xiaonan is concerned, White says it is an option for a potential return to China.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do with Yan, where she’s going to go, but I’m definitely going to look at China,” said White. “I’m looking at that right now.”
Zhang Weili set on return to China for next defense
Though sidelined since reclaiming the UFC strawweight championship from Carla Esparza at UFC 281 this past November, Weili has hinted at her next defense. Similar to her countrywoman Xiaonan, ‘Magnum’ hopes she can go home for it.
“If we can do it, if the UFC can do it, I hope I can defend my title next year in China,” said Weili during her UFC 281 post-fight press conference. “A billion Chinese MMA fans, they are looking for a big pay-per-view event in China.”
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