Over the weekend, Liaoning-born mixed martial artist Yan Xiaonan defeated former title contender Claudia Gadelha at UFC Vegas 13.
The victory expanded Yan’s UFC win streak to 6, the longest in the women’s strawweight division. Now, she wants a shot at the title, issuing a direct challenge to the division’s standing champion Zhang Weili.
“That is the direction I want to go in,” she told the South China Morning Post. “Of course we know each other, although we are not close friends. We are in different gyms but I have watched her like everyone else. I think I am faster than her so I can beat her. I think about this a lot, about how to beat her. Because we are both Chinese I think I know how to fight her better than everyone else, and I know how to beat her.”
It looks like the UFC is trying to arrange Rose Namajunas as Zhang’s next challenger, but should Zhang retain the title, Yan would likely be next in line. And with the UFC trying to establish inroads into the China market, it would be natural to hold the historic match-up in China — although, amid pandemic travel concerns, the road toward that event is unclear at best.
The UFC hosted its first China event in Macau in 2012, but it wasn’t until five years later in Shanghai that UFC came to the mainland. Yan was one of the Chinese fighters who appeared that night, defeating Kailin Curran by decision. Three years later, she’s broken into the top three of her division.
“If it’s going to be a championship fight, it’s going to show the whole world how strong Chinese women really are,” said Yan.
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