UFC president Dana White recently said the promotion would ‘definitely’ return to China, and Zhang Weili was one of the first fighters to express interest in getting a potential pay-per-view event there. After reclaiming the UFC strawweight champion with a second-round submission of Carla Esparza at UFC 281 this past November, Weili said she hoped one of her defenses could happen in her country. “If we can do it, if the UFC can do it, I hope I can defend my title next year in China,“ said Weili at her post-fight press conference. “A billion Chinese MMA fans, they are looking for a big pay-per-view event in China.”
Zhang Weili defends against Amanda Lemos at UFC 292
Weili could still get a pay-per-view event in China, but it has to wait until after her newly announced defense in the United States. On Tuesday, White announced she would defend her title against Amanda Lemos at UFC 292, the upcoming pay-per-view event scheduled for Aug. 19 at the TD Garden in Boston, Mass.
After losing and failing to reclaim the UFC strawweight championship against Rose Namajunas at UFC 261 and UFC 268, respectively, Zhang rematched Joanna Jędrzejczyk in a No. 1 contender at UFC 275 this past June. There, ‘Magnum’ retired the ex-strawweight champion with a second-round KO, which earned her a ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus and a fight against Esparza, who dethroned Namajunas a month prior.
When Esparza and Weili fought, it was a short night at the office for the latter, who dominated the former until she forced the ‘Cookie Monster’ to tap to a rear-naked choke. Now, Weili has her next defense ahead of her in Lemos, who is set for her first championship opportunity.
Since moving from bantamweight to strawweight, Lemos has found success in all but one of her appearances. The Brazilian rattled off five straight wins, one of which came against a former Invicta FC champion turned UFC staple in Angela Hill at UFC Vegas 45 nearly two years ago.
Lemos then ran into her first hiccup in the new weight class in Jéssica Andrade, the former UFC strawweight champion who submitted her via first-round standing arm-triangle choke. Since the loss to ‘Bate Estaca,’ the Marajó Brothers Team product has returned to the win column with two straight finishes of Michelle Waterson-Gomez and Marina Rodriguez.
Another contender waiting for Zhang Weili
Should Weili successfully defend against Lemos, there is another contender already lined up for her: Yan Xiaonan. The No. 3 contender recently earned her first UFC finish with a first-round KO of Jéssica Andrade.
According to the Team Alpha Male stalwart, UFC president Dana White was all in on her against Weili in China.
“I met Dana in the locker room after the fight and he said, ‘Let’s do it in China.’ So if we can make a UFC China event happen, let’s pull it up,” said Xiaonan during an appearance on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. “I think it’s possible, yeah, probably at some point at the end of this year, because China now is fully open, everything is back to normal. So I think yeah, it’s possible and very likely.”
Who else is fighting at UFC 292?
Aside from Zhang Weili vs. Amanda Lemos, UFC president Dana White also announced reigning UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling returns at UFC 292 to defend against No. 2 contender Sean O’Malley.
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