The UFC’s decision to book strawweight champion Jessica Andrade vs. lesser-known contender Weili Zhang was recently met with fan backlash.
Most thought the newly-crowned Brazilian champ would rematch former champ Rose Namajunas first. While ‘Bate Estaca’ ultimately knocked ‘Thug Rose’ out with a vicious slam at May’s UFC 237, the new champ was getting picked apart to a large degree until the fight-ending maneuver. Andrade vs. Whang was also criticized as a bit of cherry-picking considering the UFC has plans to unveil an all-new Performance Institute in China.
UFC President Dana White recently spoke up about the controversy during a presser surrounding the fight (via MMA Fighting), claiming this was the fight fans ‘want’ to see at strawweight:
“When this fight was made, this is the fight people actually want to see. [Weili Zhang] is on a 19-fight win streak, [Jessica Andrade] just won impressively for the championship.”
No Contenders Left
While that’s extremely questionable from many fans’ views, White admitted that there were few elite 115-pound contenders who could fight Zhang at UFC China. He also admitted it felt perfectly in line with the UFC’s new venture into China:
“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. No. 6 [is Weili Zhang], she’s the next in line. 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.”
Andrade vs. Zhang Gave White ‘Goosebumps’
The outspoken executive then revealed that no one really wanted to fight Zhang, who has won her three UFC fights thus far. She most recently outlasted longtime veteran Tecia Torres. With the rising star getting impatient, the champion agreed to fight her in her home country on August 31, a dynamic White had extreme excitement for:
“Nobody wants to fight her. 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 bada** this fight is. Both of these women, they’re amazing.”
Love the fight or not, you can’t argue that both of these female competitors embody White’s high praise of them. It should be a great fight regardless of if it was the one that made the most sense by the rankings. The UFC is looking to break into the Chinese market, and there was no higher-ranked fighter than Zhang available according to White.
Are you buying White’s reasoning for Andrade vs. Zhang?