UFC 235: China’s Zhang Weili inches closer to title shot as she signs on to face Tecia Torres in Las Vegas
- Chinese fighter is on an 18-fight win streak
- Has won two bouts since her switch to UFC
Zhang “Magnum” Weili stole the show as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its debut in Beijing last weekend. Now the rising strawweight star has been handed her reward – a shot against world number six Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres set for Las Vegas on March 2 next year.
Win that, and the path towards the UFC strawweight title opens right up for Zhang in what would be a lightning-quick climb through the ranks, given she only signed for the world’s leading mixed martial arts organisation in May.
“I’m very excited to have the chance to fight a number six ranked fighter,” Zhang (18-1-0) told the South China Morning Post on Friday. “I didn’t expect to have this kind of opportunity that fast. It definitely gets me one step closer to my dream.
“I’d like to fight all different kinds of fighters in the world. I want to learn from them, and Tecia Torres brings such an amazing challenge to me. I believe we will make a very exciting match-up, and I want to show more of my well-rounded skills to the world. I will use my intelligence and MMA philosophy to win the fight.”
Zhang was thrown in the deep end of the UFC’s talent pool at the Chinese capital’s Cadillac Arena, matched in just her second fight with the promotion against American Jessica “Jag” Aguilar (20-7). The Mexican-American fighter has battled some of the best and at one stage herself was rated as the top strawweight on the planet.
But it was all quickly over as Zhang took her career record to 18-1 with a fierce display of power, landing short, sharp blows from the bell, and rag-dolling Aguilar to the canvas before laying on an arm bar that saw her battered and bleeding opponent tap out at three minutes and 41 seconds of the first.
The crowd went wild and it was a performance that blew away any doubts that the UFC had a star in the making.
Zhang had battled to overcome American Danielle “Dynamite” Taylor (9-4) in her UFC debut in August and had come to Beijing vowing to “show the world the true Zhang Weili.”
The 29-year-old from Hebei told the Post after the fight it was only just the beginning as she now looks to stretch her 18-0 career winning streak inside the cage.
“I was disappointed after L.A. and I wasn’t able to watch the replays,” Zhang said. “But tonight, after three months of training, I proved myself in the cage.”
In the American Torres, the UFC have selected a vastly experienced fighter will come to the bout off a loss to former strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk (15-2) and carries a record of 10-3 into the bout. Torres has also lost to current strawweight champ Rose “Thug” Namajunas (8-3) on her record but she pushed both of those fighters – superstars in the sport – to referees’ decisions.
That it will take place as part of one of the UFC’s showcase cards – with rumours pointing to a possible return to the octagon of welterweight Nick Diaz (26-9, two no contests) against Jorge “Gamebred” Masvida (32-13) as a headline – shows the UFC wants to see exactly what sort of talent it has on its hands with Zhang.
So far what the world has seen has been impressive, with 17 of Zhang’s 18 wins coming inside the distance.
The UFC has made great inroads into the Chinese market over the past 12 months, staging its first fight cards in both Shanghai and Beijing, and extending its stable of Chinese fighters to 11, with Zhang, veteran welterweight Li “The Leech” Jingliang (16-5) and rising bantamweight hope Song “The Monkey King” Yadong (13-3, two no contests) leading the way.
“As an amateur, I wanted to become a professional, and now as a professional I just want to win,” Zhang said. “I wanted to join the UFC, to win in the UFC, and now I want to be champion in the UFC. I am ready.”