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Carla Esparza beat Rose Namajunas to claim the women’s strawweight title at UFC 274. Photo: USA TODAY Sports

UFC: Carla Esparza tells Zhang Weili ‘I’m the champion’ and fight will happen ‘on my timeline’

  • Women’s strawweight champion Esparza says a fight with No 1 contender Zhang Weili will happen when she is ready
  • Zhang, who earned strawweight title shot with highlight-reel KO of Joanna Jedrzejczyk on Sunday’s UFC 275 card in Singapore, wants title fight in October

UFC women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza is in no rush to return to the Octagon any time soon.

The newly crowned champ shut down the suggestion by Zhang Weili for an October clash for the women’s strawweight title, after the Chinese MMA superstar defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 275 in Singapore to cement her No 1 contender spot.

“I definitely don’t feel like I’m in a position where I should rush just because Weili wants a certain date,” Esparza told the New York Post. “I’m not trying to go on her timeline. I’m the champion, and I feel she needs to go on my timeline.”

Zhang Weili of China knocks out Joanna Jedrzejczyk of Poland with a spinning back fist in a strawweight fight at UFC 275 in Singapore. Photo: Zuffa LLC

Zhang, the division’s former champion, returned to the Octagon on the main card of UFC 275, defeating Jedrzejczyk with a beautifully timed spinning back fist, catching the Polish star with a forearm to the side of the head in the second round.

UFC president Dana White said the winner was next in line for Esparza.

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“I want to fight with Carla in Abu Dhabi,” Zhang said during the UFC 275 post-fight press conference. “I think there’s a fight around October 20. I think Carla is a special fighter too, so I think that would be a really good fight.”

Esparza regained the strawweight belt on May 8 with a decision victory over Rose Namajunas – more than seven years after she lost it to Jedrzejczyk in her first title defence.

For her part, Zhang said she would get straight back to work in preparation for another shot at the strawweight belt.

“I think there’s no weak fighters in the top ranking,” she said. “For a fight with Carla, I need to improve my grappling, my BJJ, my wrestling. There’s nothing I need to specifically prepare for, I just need to improve myself.”