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31 Aug, 2019 15:12

Zhang Weili: 5 things you need to know about the UFC’s first Chinese champion

Zhang Weili: 5 things you need to know about the UFC’s first Chinese champion

Zhang Weili became China’s first ever UFC champion when she dismantled Brazil’s Jessica Andrade just 42 seconds into their strawweight title fight in Shenzhen – but what do we know about MMA’s newest star?

Zhang was little known outside her homeland before Saturday night, but will now be propelled to much broader fame with her TKO win against Andrade.

The victory over the Brazilian was Zhang’s 20th straight win, and fourth since joining the UFC in 2018. 

Also on rt.com 'Remember me!' Zhang stuns Andrade at UFC Shenzhen to become first-ever Chinese champion

The Hebei-born sensation has suffered just one defeat in her pro MMA career – which came in her debut bout against Meng Bo in the China MMA League back in 2013.

Since then, she has gone on a remarkable journey and the 30-year-old now stands at the top of her division in the world’s biggest MMA promotion.

With the UFC eyeing the riches of the Asian market, Zhang looks set to be destined for bigger things as a trailblazer in the region.  

Here are five things you need to know about the woman who goes by the nickname ‘Magnum’.

She was a tough kid

The daughter of a miner, Zhang grew up in Hebei, a province fabled for its martial artists.

Zhang has previously told ESPN that she started out in martial arts by doing kung fu at the age of six.

She told the network she picked up her love of the sport through the movies, dreaming of “flying and hoping between trees like they did.”

She’s also told local media how she would end up stepping in against boys to defend her friends on the school playground, saying: “I wasn’t afraid of the bullies, or of a fight.”

As a youngster Zhang also developed a love of Chinese kick-boxing – known as sanda – and was described as a “stand-out talent” in the sport.   

Her fights rarely go the distance

It’s little surprise that Zhang’s fight against Andrade didn’t go the distance, as just three of her victories have ended up by way of the scorecards.

She has described herself as a “boxer-type” fighter and her stoppage of Andrade through knees and punches was typical of her style.

Ronda Rousey is an inspiration

Zhang has cited women’s UFC trailblazer Ronda Rousey as a big inspiration. Rousey recently posted on Instagram that she felt like “a proud mama” watching the way women’s MMA has developed, citing Zhang as an example.

That message was met with a tribute from Zhang, who said she had been “inspired” by the UFC’s first-ever female champion.

Tom Brady is a fan

Zhang can also add NFL legend Tom Brady to her list of fans, as the New England Patriots star sent her a good-luck message before her fight with Andrade.

The Chinese fighter has previously been pictured wearing Brady’s iconic Patriots number 12 shirt, and responded by writing: "Thank you my idol! This means a lot to me!”

She’s joined some gilded UFC ranks

Zhang’s 42-second TKO victory over Andrade not only made her China’s first-ever UFC champion, but it also put her into the top five of the promotion’s quickest-ever finishes in modern title fights.

Zhang comes in at number five on the list topped by Conor McGregor’s 13-second destruction of Jose Aldo at UFC 194 back in 2015.

After her victory in front of an ecstatic home crowd at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre Arena, Zhang told the cameras to “remember my name.”

Zhang is certainly the name on MMA fans’ lips at the moment, and could be set to stay there as the promotion seeks to maximize the potential of its first ever Chinese champion.