Zhang Weili gets China’s first UFC title shot
Strawweight champion Jessica Andrade of Brazil will defend her belt in August against China’s Zhang Weili, promoters said Thursday, the first time any Chinese athlete has gotten a title shot in the world’s biggest mixed martial arts promotion.
Andrade (19-6-0) will slug it out with Zhang (19-1-0) in the China Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Fight Night in the southern city of Shenzhen on August 31, the US-based promotion said.
Zhang’s selection for the event — the UFC’s third in China — was widely expected but had drawn some criticism due to the fact that she is only the sixth-ranked fighter in her division.
But top promotions have their sights firmly set on China, where the rapid growth of mixed martial arts (MMA) and the country’s ancient martial arts traditions have fuelled predictions of major expansion.
Choosing Zhang has been seen as a way to broaden the sport’s Chinese fan base.
Zhang is the highest-ranked Chinese fighter in the UFC and has won 19 straight.
Also on Thursday, the UFC cut the ribbon on what it bills as the world’s largest MMA training and development base in Shanghai.
Performance Institute Shanghai is aimed at helping to nurture the next generation of Chinese mixed martial arts fighters, the UFC has said.