Zhang Weili, China’s first UFC champion, one of world’s top female MMA fighters, Mark Zuckerberg and wife are huge fans

Profile | Zhang Weili, China’s first UFC champion, one of world’s top female MMA fighters, Mark Zuckerberg and wife are huge fans

Zhang Weili became China and Asia’s first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) winner, by defeating her compatriot Yan Xiaonan in their strawweight title fight at UFC 300 in Las Vegas on April 13.

Her journey from a small-town girl to a global mixed martial arts (MMA) icon continues to inspire people worldwide, attracting attention from celebrities such as Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

After the fight, they congratulated Zhang on Facebook and had a friendly conversation with her.

What lies behind Zhang’s global pulling power and wide appeal? The Post finds out.

Who is she ?

Zhang is a pioneering figure in Chinese MMA and competes in the strawweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

She is the first UFC female world champion from China and Asia.

Zhang Weili, who fought her way out of a small town in China, is the country’s first UFC champion. Photo: Sina.com

Born in Handan, Hebei province, northern China, Zhang started learning martial arts at the age of 6 and later practised Sanda, a form of combat sport, and boxing. She then clinched the Hebei Provincial Youth Sanda Championship.

However, severe injuries forced her to reconsider her career, leading her to various jobs in Beijing – from kindergarten teacher to working as a hotel receptionist and a bodyguard.

Her passion for martial arts never waned and she later returned to the fight game.

In 2019, during UFC Fight Night 157 in Shenzhen, southern China, she defeated the reigning champion, Brazilian Jéssica Andrade, and claimed the UFC Strawweight World Championship, becoming the first fighter from China and Asia to win the title.

In March 2020, at UFC 248 in Las Vegas, she successfully defended her title against Polish challenger, former strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk, further establishing her dominance in the sport.

Chinese milestone

The UFC 300, held on April 13 in Las Vegas, marked a first in the contest’s history with a title bout between two fighters from China.

Zhang faced Yan Xiaonan, a formidable opponent. Both aged 34, each has a record of eight victories in the UFC.

This is more than just a fight; for Chinese MMA, it’s a step on to a new stage
Zhang Weili, UFC 300

Zhang’s superior ground work ultimately led her to victory, enabling her to successfully defend her title once more.

“This is more than just a fight. For Chinese MMA, it is a step on to a new stage. I earned my championship step by step through hard work, and Xiaonan’s journey here wasn’t easy either,” said Zhang.

“Without resilience and persistence, neither of us would have reached this point. I believe this match will inspire more people to join this sport.”

Zuckerberg link

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan wanted to meet Zhang before her big fight, but she was letting nothing distract her. Photo: Sina.com

Zhang’s discipline and dedication to her sport have not only earned her respect from her peers, they also attracted celebrities to the UFC 300 fight, including Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.

However, in a live-streaming session on the evening of April 16, Zhang said she intentionally avoided greeting Zuckerberg before the match, to maintain her focus.

“Before the match, Zuckerberg came to greet everyone. A staff member said he wanted to greet me, but I said I could not. Not now. I need to focus on the match. I turned my head away when he passed by the outer room where I was lying down, to avoid distraction,” Zhang said.

Afterwards, they had a friendly conversation.

Her revelation drew playful comments from Chinese people online.

“Zuckerberg might think he could beat Elon Musk if he trained with Zhang Weili,” one person joked.

“Did Zhang Weili suggest Zuckerberg should go to the Shaolin Temple?” quipped another.



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