Tentatively expected to travel to Singapore for an April 24 UFC 261 pay-per-view event, the promotion is now targeting a stay in home base, Las Vegas, Nevada for the card — with plans for a showcase in the Far East shelved for the time being.
Floating a strawweight title fight for incumbent gold holder, Zhang Weili against either former champions, Rose Namajunas or Carla Esparza — reports suggested that the organization were planning on fielding an event in Singapore, on the heels of a recent showing from hometown promotion, ONE Championship.
According to a report from Brazilian outlet, Combate and reporter, Raphael Marinho — the UFC is now planning on hosting the event on familiar Las Vegas soil after talks with the local government broke down, with Weili still earmarked to draw the above mentioned, Namajunas, however, if that matchup fails to come to fruition — the promotion will look to Esparza to tackle the current champion. Should Weili and Namajunas square off, Team Oyama staple, Esparza would then target a matchup against Weili’s compatriot, the surging, Yan Xiaonan.
The promotion has been limited to events in Abu Dhabi, UAE — Jacksonville, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with their last expedition from these locations coming in March of last year where they fielded a lightweight main event between Charles Oliveira and Kevin Lee at UFC Fight Night Brasilia — behind a closed gate.
Scoring the first successful defence of her strawweight throne at UFC 248 in March — Weili met with former division queen, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, battling to a close split decision victory, in the promotion’s consensus Fight of the Year.
Earning her number-one rank at 115-pounds, former champion, Namajunas avenged a May 2019 slam knockout loss to former titleholder, Jessica Andrade — besting the Brazilian at UFC 251 in July in another close affair, nabbing a split decision at the ‘Fight Island’ event.
Inaugural UFC and Invicta FC strawweight champion, Esparza has enjoyed a four-fight undefeated streak since her UFC 228 knockout loss to surging challenger, Tatiana Suarez. Scoring a unanimous decision win over Virna Jandiroba, Esparza notched a trio of close decision triumphs over Alexa Grasso, Michelle Waterson, and Marina Rodriguez.
Promotional-perfect contender, Xiaonan has amassed a six-fight undefeated streak in six Octagon outings. The Liaoning native has defeated the likes of Kailin Curran, Viviane Pereira, Syuri Kondo, Angela Hill, and in her two most recent appearances, knocked back former title chasers, Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Claudia Gadelha.