Weili Zhang shows confidence heading into her UFC 281 fight against Carla Esparza.
UFC 281 is headlined by two big title matches. While Israel Adesanya defends against Alex Pereira, Carla Esparza looks to stop Weili Zhang from joining her on the list of two-time UFC champions. This is a compelling battle in the women’s 115-pound division, which is considered one of the deepest in the sport.
Esparza surprised a lot of people when she picked up a split decision victory at UFC 274 to win the championship for the second time in her career. It’s an accolade that Zhang spoke to personally during the media day interviews.
“I think Carla is one of the best in our division,” Zhang said through an interpreter. “She was the inaugural champion, then won the title back after eight years. I respect her achievements very much.”
But that did not stop Zhang from speaking about her skills and beliefs that she’s the superior athlete. Even though she’s dropped two fights of her last three, the momentum she showed up to her first championship win over Jessica Andrade in 2019 gives her the boost to be the biggest favorite coming into UFC 281.
“I think I am a more well-rounded fighter than her,” Zhang said. “No matter that we fight striking, wrestling, grappling, I have no problem fighting against her. I prepared a lot for this fight. So be ready for a spectacular moment to come.”
Carla Esparza found her way back to the title
Esparza is riding a six-fight win streak that includes victories over the likes of Michelle Waterson, Marina Rodriguez, Yan Xiaonan. This is an exceptional turnaround for her career as she struggled to defeat the top names in the division after dropping the title to Joanna Jedrzejczyk back at UFC 185 in 2015.
Zhang also opened up about the pressure that comes with being the first Chinese champion in UFC history and looking to recreate that moment with another championship run.
“When I won my belt that made millions of people in China know me, know MMA, and know the UFC,” Zhang said. “This time, if I can win the belt again in New York City, in a worldwide city, I feel like more will know this Weili.”
UFC 281: Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira takes place on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, live from Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. Follow along with FanSided MMA for all your news and highlights.