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Midnight Mania! Weili Zhang turned down by three top Strawweights before receiving title shot

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MMA: UFC 235-Torres vs Zhang Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Midnight Mania!

Move over Kamaru Usman, there’s a new “most avoided” fighter in town.

Weili Zhang’s title shot is not a bad or unfair move, but it is a fairly surprising one. The Chinese fighter has won a remarkable 19 straight fights, including three victories inside the Octagon. Currently ranked at No. 6, Zhang is a slick kickboxer and very dynamic athlete. Her work inside the Octagon has certainly been impressive, but it still seemed like there was something more to the story.

Now, Zhang has explained that multiple top-ranked Strawweights have declined bouts with her. Transcription via MMAJunkie:

“After my fight at UFC 235, I was ranked at No. 7 (in the UFC rankings). Ahead of me in the rankings, only two people at the time were the ones who did not have fights – fifth-ranked Gadelha, and second-ranked Joanna. I was very excited at the time, but both of them turned down a fight with me before and after.”

Zhang also refers to “another seventh-ranked fighter” who turned her down, which is very possibly Michelle Waterson if Zhang is referring to the current rankings. Zhang continued that she was planning to face Alexa Grasso next, only to be surprised by the title shot offer.

Assuming Zhang is telling the truth — and since she already has the title shot, there’s no real reason to lie — it’s interesting to consider the motivations of each woman. Both Joanna Jedrzejcyzk and Michelle Waterson were likely gunning for an immediate title and declining anything else, but that didn’t work out. Instead, they will face each other in October.

On the other hand, Gadelha could’ve gained considerable momentum by defeating Zhang. However, she’s in an odd place right now, alternating wins and losses and looking to reinvent herself at a new camp. It’s very possible that she simply wanted an easier opponent until she feels confident again.

Either way, it all helps explain how Zhang finds herself set to battle Jessica Andrade in Shenzhen.


RIP Pernell Whittaker.

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Sleep well Maniacs! More martial arts madness is always on the way.