Earlier this week, the UFC held a press conference in China to announce the Jessica Andrade vs. Weili Zhang title fight.
Many find it surprising that Zhang was granted the title opportunity, as she’s only the No. 6-ranked strawweight in the UFC. UFC President Dana White‘s explanation was simple, Zhang was the only fighter available (via MMA Fighting):
“When this fight was made, this is the fight people actually want to see,” White said. “[Weili Zhang] is on a 19-fight win streak, [Jessica Andrade] just won impressively for the championship. If you look at the way this went down, Rose [Namajunas], we offered the fight to Rose, the rematch, Rose wasn’t ready she couldn’t take the fight. Tatiana [Suarez] would have been next in line.
“Tatiana hurt her neck training for the last fight, she’s out. Nina [Ansaroff], she’s ranked No. 3, she just lost. Then you’ve got Joanna [Jedrzejczyk], Joanna is taking time off right now, she’s not going to fight until the fall. Then you’ve got Claudia [Gadelha], who’s ranked No. 5. Claudia Gadelha has a fight coming up right now with Randa Markos.”
The whole situation worked out perfectly. Zhang was available just as the UFC was preparing to burst into China with a brand new Performance Institute. It wasn’t planned, it was simply a matter of right place and right time:
“No. 6 [is Weili Zhang], she’s the next in line,” White said. “Does it fall into place with the opening of the [Performance Institute] and all the things that are going on, yep it does but it was fate. Right fight, right place, right time, this was the fight to make.”
White added that the Las Vegas-based promotion has had trouble finding Zhang willing opponents. When Andrade welcomed a title defense against the Chinese prospect in front of her native crowd, the UFC boss was stunned:
“Nobody wants to fight her,” White said. “So we offer all these people the fight with her, she keeps saying ‘when do I get to fight?’ and nobody wants to fight her. So I just told you how the whole thing plays out.
“We call [Andrade], she says ‘I’ll absolutely fight her in China’. I got goosebumps telling you that story, that’s how bad ass this fight is. Both of these women, they’re amazing.”