China’s UFC champion Zhang puts title defense before virus jab
Zhang Weili, China’s first and only UFC champion, is agonizing over her second shot of a coronavirus vaccine because she wants nothing to disrupt preparations for her title defense.
The 30-year-old puts her strawweight belt on the line for the second time when she faces Rose “Thug” Namajunas at UFC 261 in Florida on April 24.
Zhang who boasts a 21-1 win-loss MMA record, said that she had the first shot of a vaccine against the coronavirus but not yet the second one necessary for full effectiveness.
“I didn’t have any reaction to the first shot, but those who had the second shot said there would be a reaction,” said Zhang, who was speaking to AFP via video call from her training base in Beijing
“That would affect my training and could mean no training for three days in a row. So I didn’t dare have the second one.”
Given the higher rate of infection in the United States, Zhang is still weighing up whether to have the second dose before she travels there next month. Only Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines are available in China.
Zhang became China’s first UFC champion in 2019, then burnished her fast-growing reputation with a thrilling victory over Joanna Jedrzejczyk in Las Vegas in March 2020 to defend her title.
The brutal dust-up was regarded as fight of the year, before the pandemic checked her momentum.
Ultimate Fighting Championship chief Dana White has pledged that there will be a full crowd in Jacksonville for UFC 261, despite the threat of the coronavirus.
Zhang is in confident mood ahead of what promises to be another bruising battle against the American-born Namajunas, a former strawweight champion.
But given the opportunity to predict what punishment she will inflict on the 28-year-old, the Chinese fighter said only that it would be “a wonderful” bout.
She used a Chinese saying to underline the respect she has for Namajunas.
“From an exchange of blows, friendship grows,” said Zhang, who is favored by bookmakers because of her superior power.
“I think this a wonderful thing. In fact, if you want me to trash-talk her, I really don’t know how to.
“But she definitely wants to win, and so do I. So let’s see who gives whom a lesson — who is the teacher and who is the student.
“It will be clear in the Octagon.”
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