On June 11, Chinese mixed martial artist Zhang Weili stunned fight fans worldwide by winning a highly-anticipated rematch against Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 275 in Singapore.
Not only did the former UFC World Champion defeat her Polish opponent, but she inflicted a spectacular second-round knockout on Jedrzejczyk: A spinning back fist that resulted in Jedrzejczyk tumbling to the Octagon’s floor amidst the roar of the crowd.
After winning the bout, Zhang shouted on the mic, “I want to tell everyone: I am back!”
And back she is, with a chance to reclaim her strawweight title just over the horizon: If comments by UFC boss Dana White before the event are to be believed, Zhang’s next UFC appearance is likely to be a title fight against current UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion Carla Esparza.
Zhang’s victory at UFC 275 made a splash on Chinese social media, with a related hashtag on the microblogging platform Weibo having gained a whopping 350 million views at the time of writing.
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Weibo users have flocked to the comment sections of videos highlighting the match and its knockout to congratulate Zhang and express admiration for her power and resilience.
Immediately after being proclaimed the winner, the fighter made an inspirational statement that resonated with Chinese fans, “I told myself I am not fighting Joanna, I am fighting myself.”
Zhang also praised her opponent as a “true warrior” and used her win to uplift women, declaring, “Who says we can’t do it as women? We can.” Her comments were particularly poignant in light of the ruthless attack against four women in the Northeast China city of Tangshan last week, which has horrified the nation.
A hashtag related to Zhang’s comments on female power also received more than 20 million views on Weibo. Many social media users point out how the athlete embodies an ideal of strong women with comments such as “Female power will rise!”
Zhang herself took to Weibo and posted a celebratory statement on her profile: “I am not in a hurry to prove anything to anyone, but I hope I can showcase the beauty and ability of MMA athletes.”
Following the defeat, Jedrzejczyk, who is about to turn 35, announced her retirement from professional competitions, expressing gratitude to the UFC and all those who supported her during her career.
To learn more about rising female MMA athletes, check out the first episode of our two-part documentary on China’s burgeoning MMA scene, Way of the Warrior, below:
Cover image via VCG
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