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Now safely in U.S., Weili Zhang details harrowing escape from China, coronavirus outbreak

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Latest coronavirus numbers: 82,721 infected, 2,817 dead.

Sprinkle in a couple of zombies, and maybe one or two border patrol agents in HazMat suits, and you’ve got yourself a pretty good movie, with reigning UFC strawweight champion, Weili Zhang, cast in the lead role.

“Magnum” was training in Beijing during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak. Then the shit hit the proverbial fan and Zhang was forced to flee, or risk getting stuck in China for an undetermined amount of time.

“I got the news that flights between the U.S. and China had been suspended,” Zhang told ESPN (transcribed by Tom Taylor). “Then I got a text from my UFC manager that morning telling me depart immediately. We then started packing up our luggage and headed to the airport around noon. It was such a rush. I thought it was a dream. I didn’t even know where to train or anything. The whole experience was life a refugee trying to leave.”

Zhang was shipped to Thailand to resume her training for the UFC 248 co-main event, where “Magnum” will put her 115-pound title on the line against former strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, on March 7 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Then a second call came in, telling Zhang she once again had to relocate.

“It came very quickly,” she said. “I had no idea. I was suddenly told that I had to leave, which made me really emotional. I flew to Abu Dhabi on February 7 after spending a week in Thailand,” Zhang continued. “At the time I was a bit frustrated and very emotional because I just got used to Thailand. In Thailand, I had two local coaches that I could talk to at least, but I knew nothing about Abu Dhabi so I was really upset and stressed out.”

I’m sure it didn’t help that her opponent was making coronavirus jokes as the outbreak worsened, but a timely phone call from Zhang’s mother helped the streaking strawweight champion put her problems in perspective.

“I called my mom and told her I was upset,” Zhang said. “She told me there were a lot of people in China fighting the virus and I shouldn’t be the one complaining just because I needed to travel around. She said those doctors and nurses didn’t even have time to sleep and that I should be grateful and overcome the difficulties. My mom’s words gave me a lot of confidence at that time.”

That’s bad news for Jedrzejczyk, as the last time Zhang was confident, this happened.