Weili Zhang wants to fight Valentina Shevchenko

Weili Zhang regained the UFC strawweight title in New York earlier this month. But the Chinese fighter does not seem in a hurry to head home and has been taking in the sights and sounds of Las Vegas.

Sha attended an NHL game there last week and saw the Golden Knights beat the Arizona Coilers 4-1. She also attended a Blue Man show and took a trip to a local firing range:

Sights and sounds

At UFC 281 she submitted Carla Esparza in the opening round. It was her second time competing at Madison Square Garden and afterwards she appears to have decided to head west for a holiday.

But while taking in the sights and sounds of Las Vegas she has also found time to talk to the media back home. Zhang fought in China in 2018 and 2019 but has not been able to compete there since the pandemic.

She told China Daily that she is hoping the UFC will return to the country in 2023,

“If it is possible I’d like to defend my title next year in China. That would be a wonderful experience to defend my belt at home for the first time in my career,” she said.

More traditional

While Zhang has spent a lot of time training in Arizona and Phuket she has never forgotten her roots and plans to study more traditional Chinese martial arts,

“Traditional Chinese martial arts, as our roots and culture, have a lot more to offer than many people realize for developing prowess in the modern sport of mixed martial arts,” she told the Chinese newspaper.

Zhang says she has already started incorporating these traditional martial arts into her fight training,

“During my pre-fight camp, I learned a lot from practicing traditional Chinese wrestling and tai chi moves. The shift of bodyweight, composure, finesse and balance embodied in those routines helped me become a better MMA athlete,” she said.

She feels that traditional Chinese martial arts have more to offer and wants to gain an even deeper understanding of ancient techniques which Zhang believes can help her win the most modern of battles,

“I still have a lot from traditional martial arts that I want to incorporate into my training, such as the flexible yet powerful striking of tong bei quan, which is known for the penetrating power in its whipping punches,” she said.

Interesting year

Having recaptured her strawweight belt, Zhang is surely studying the list of contenders. Amanda Lemos is the only fighter in the top five she hasn’t already beaten but the champion remained coy when asked who she wanted to fight next,

“There are so many great fighters in this division at the moment. I don’t have a particular name that I want to fight for now. I will wait for the call from UFC to decide which one is more appealing. I am all in,” she told the newspaper.

But there is one fight which has definitely piqued her interest. Zhang wants to take on reigning flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko,

“I think it would be a great fight (and) it’s one I’ve considered before. She is a very versatile fighter with a complete package. I hope it can be arranged whenever UFC sees fit.”

It sounds like Zhang wants to challenge Shevchenko for her flyweight title in China next year. For the time being she seems to be enjoying a well earned break but 2023 looks set to be a very interesting year for the newly crowned champion.

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