UFC announces “China Derby”: Zhang Weili to Defend Strawweight Crown Against Yan Xiaonan

The two leading Chinese female fighters are poised to rock the octagon as they go head-to-head in a landmark moment for mixed martial arts in China

2 0
5:15 PM HKT, Fri January 19, 2024 1 mins read

For the first time in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history, two Chinese fighters are set to square off in a championship bout.

Gearing up for UFC’s history-making 300th event, UFC CEO Dana White announced last week on social media that Zhang Weili, the reigning UFC women’s strawweight champion, will defend her title against compatriot Yan Xiaonan at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on April 13.

China’s first-ever UFC champion Zhang, hailing from Handan, Hebei province, captured her title in August 2019 through a technical knockout of Jessica Andrade in front of more than 10,000 spectators in Shenzhen. Subsequent to the victorious title defense against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Zhang relinquished her crown to Rose Namajunas in April 2021, concluding her initial reign as the belt holder.

In November 2022, the 34-year-old emerged as a two-time UFC women’s strawweight champion when she overpowered Carla Esparza at UFC 281, and went on to successfully retain her title for a second time with a unanimous decision victory over Amanda Lemos in Boston in August last year.

Zhang’s rival Yan, also 34, is the first Chinese female fighter signed by UFC and one of the pioneers of mixed martial arts (MMA) in China. After securing a first-round knockout win over Jessica Andrade in May 2023, the Shenyang, Liaoning native has climbed to the second spot in the UFC women’s strawweight rankings.

MMA and UFC, like Formula One, boast mounting popularity and a growing fan base in China, thanks to the presence and accomplishments of Chinese athletes. The first-ever all-Chinese title fight is piquing audiences’ attention back home.

“I’m rooting for them both, but objectively speaking Zhang Weili’s strength gives her the upper hand,” read a comment below a WeChat post.

“Everyone’s saying Zhang Weili should have totally won the matchup, but I don’t see it that way,” a Weibo user posted. “The Chinese fighters are tight-knit and know each other inside out, so they can easily defend and develop targeted strategies.”

"My prediction is that the Chinese athlete will definitely strike gold,” another user humorously added.

Other fights confirmed on the gradually filling card for the April 13 UFC event include Jiří Procházka vs. Aleksandar Rakić (light heavyweight), Bo Nickal vs. Cody Brundage (middleweight), Charles Oliveira vs. Arman Tsarukyan (lightweight), and Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Cody Garbrandt (bantamweight).

Banner images via UFC.

Join the Conversation
Write comment

Matthew Bossons
Nov 14, 2022
Use this time to reassess your life choices