Zhang Weili 2.0 thinks everything will be different at UFC 268 after ‘political nonsense’ haunted last fight

1 year ago 163

Zhang Weili is done with what she calls “political nonsense.”

For the erstwhile UFC strawweight champion, it’s each astir taking backmost the loop she mislaid connected April 24,

On Saturday astatine Madison Square Garden, successful the pay-per-view co-headliner against Rose Namajunas, Zhang is surely hoping the title bout goes longer than the 78 seconds the archetypal gathering betwixt the 2 did.

“If the combat goes longer, it volition beryllium decidedly a amended assessment,” Zhang precocious told The Post done an interpreter.

More importantly, though, the UFC’s archetypal champion from China would similar to permission authorities retired of the combat promotion this clip around. In the leadup to their archetypal gathering successful Jacksonville, Fla., comments made by Namajunas (10-4, 7 finishes) brought an anti-communist communicative to their fight.

Namajunas, 29, near Lithuania for Milwaukee with her household arsenic the Cold War ended. She told LRT Lituanica successful aboriginal April that “Weili is red, that’s what she represents” and parroted the “better reddish than dead” slogan,. Namajunas added that determination was “nothing personal” against Zhang (21-2, 17 finishes), who has nary known past of making her authorities public. 

Namajunas’ comments rapidly took implicit the pre-fight narrative. Zhang responded with small much than an invitation to sojourn her homeland — and Namajunas suggested Zhang would request to sojourn Lithuania first. 

Ultimately, it was a devastating caput footwear that dethroned Zhang, ending a reign that began successful August 2019 and was comprised of 1 palmy rubric defense: an all-time classical divided determination triumph implicit Joanna Jedrzejczyk conscionable days earlier the COVID-19 pandemic changed American beingness past March. Minutes earlier her archetypal nonrecreational nonaccomplishment since her pro MMA debut successful 2013, Zhang had been showered with an unexpected level of boos from the Florida crowd, which she owes to the existent champ bringing authorities into the mix.

“It’s much astir what Rose said earlier the combat astir the governmental comments, and that whitethorn person incited the assemblage to boo me,” Zhang said. “I wasn’t precise prepared for that.”

For the rematch, the venue shifts to New York and a metropolitan country that, according to Pew Research Center arsenic of 2015, is location to the largest Chinese colonisation successful the country. As specified Zhang is optimistic she volition person greater enactment from Chinese Americans astatine the Garden.

“Maybe there’s a batch of Chinese fans who volition spell to the metropolis to spot maine fight,” Zhang said. “I anticipation determination volition beryllium immoderate Chinese fans cheering for maine successful Chinese.”

Zhang, 32, brings a caller look to this fight, some physically and successful her combat preparation. She cropped her agelong locks successful favour of a abbreviated ‘do — a determination she attributes to exasperation with having her hairsbreadth yanked retired portion grooming her grappling. More impactfuly, she acceptable her grooming campy successful the United States for the archetypal time.

Traditionally based retired of Black Tiger Fight Club successful Beijing, Zhang trekked to Scottsdale, Ariz., to bid with Fight Ready MMA. Rather than arriving successful the US 2 weeks up of her fight, she arrived stateside connected Sept. 12 to bid nether Eric Albarracin, Eddie Cha and erstwhile two-division UFC champion Henry Cejudo. She feels assured with the mode the caller acquisition has gone and appreciates the much “detail-oriented” attack to grooming than she was accustomed to successful China.

“The grooming successful Arizona has truly focused connected mixing the antithetic tactics that I person learned successful the past and besides added connected caller things.” Zhang said.

Zhang’s improvement has drawn raves from Cejudo, who retired past outpouring aft a palmy bantamweight rubric defence against erstwhile longtime champ Dominick Cruz. The boisterous Cejudo hyped her connected Instagram successful precocious September arsenic “Weili 2.0.” 

But the erstwhile 115-pound champ took it a measurement further successful her self-evaluation up of the rematch with Namajunas.

“I’m a marque caller fighter, and also, it’s a marque caller fight,” Zhang said. “I’m a challenger to the loop [this time], truthful I conscionable willed myself arsenic a challenger to the belt. And Henry said I’m ‘2.0’, but I consciousness I’m already 3.0.”