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Zhang Weili

Mixed martial arts star successfully defends UFC Women’s Strawweight championship


Why is she in the news?

Mixed martial arts star Zhang Weili defended her straw-weight title against Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248 in Las Vegas on March 8, winning a bitter, five-round battle on a split decision.

The pay-per-view audience was captivated by the brutality of the fight and social media lit up afterwards with pictures of the injuries to the fighters.

The two women threw a combined 783 strikes, according to UFC stats — or one every 1.9 seconds — and landed 366, with 351 considered significant or powerful. Both women were badly bruised and cut as a result but Jedrzejczyk was the most disfigured, with a huge haematoma on her forehead that made her look like an alien. She later went back to Poland, her home country, for surgery.

Fight fans acclaimed the clash as the greatest MMA bout in women’s history and the UFC’s boss Dana White was delighted as well, describing the women as “savages” (a compliment, presumably). Later it released slo-mo footage of the punches that bashed up the Polish fighter so badly.

Wasn’t there bad blood between the two?

Zhang had been offended by some of the comments from her opponent before the fight, the People’s Daily noted, although she had refused to engage in trash talk. Jedrzejczyk even posted a picture of herself wearing a gas mask in an apparent attempt to ridicule Zhang and the coronavirus outbreak. “It’s all part of her tactic to curse and make you angry before going to the fight. I won’t take her seriously. I know she’s just acting. I won’t curse her,” Zhang responded. “In Chinese culture, one does not curse to show one’s attitude. I will show her my attitude with my punches.”

And after the fighting was over?

Zhang sobbed through the post-fight interview as she reflected on how the virus crisis had disrupted her training, forcing her to travel through a number of countries just to get to Las Vegas. “It really took us a long way to get here because of the coronavirus back in our country, everybody knows that,” she explained. “It was very serious, very serious. But we made it… I hope we stay together, we come together, we can win [against] this coronavirus. Our country [is] suffering from the big tragedy right now, so we’ll fight together. We’ll win it.”

Later the two fighters were reconciled when they went to the hospital for treatment. “There was just a curtain between us. She kept crying for hours,” Zhang said. “I felt very sad. I especially wanted to comfort her. But because of the language barrier, I can only tell her, ‘Good job! You did very well. You are very good’”.

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