UFC Shenzhen: Ronda Rousey declares herself Weili Zhang’s proud mama, ‘Magnum’ responds in kind
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, deserves most of the credit for bringing women’s mixed martial arts (MMA) into the mainstream media, which in turn created dozens of opportunities for up-and-coming female fighters.
Like UFC strawweight contender Weili Zhang, for example.
“I feel like a proud mama watching how women’s MMA has grown,” Rousey told her social media followers. “Women from all walks of life, from all over the world are rising to the challenge and showing the world what it means to fight like a girl. Weili Zhang is a prime example of overcoming adversity — fighting not just through the ranks, but to also get noticed and stand out. I’ve definitely taken notice, and so should you. Best of luck to the ladies fighting August 31 on UFC Fight Night 157.”
The since-retired (kinda-sorta) Rousey rose to fame under the Strikeforce banner back in summer 2011, thanks to opportunities created by existing stars like Gina Carano and Cris Cyborg, who scored a 2.9 rating and 856,000 viewers on the Showtime network for their featherweight main event back in 2009.
Those numbers may not sound impressive in 2019, but on cable television nearly a decade ago — when women weren’t allowed to compete in UFC — that kind of return was considered a major success, helping propel “Conviction” into a career in Hollywood.
But for a fighter like Zhang, just 20 years old at the time and living in China, her exposure to women’s MMA undoubtedly started with Rousey, who left a trail of bodies in her wake while jumping out to a 12-0 record in UFC with 12 finishes.
“Wow. Idol. I remember the first time I saw you fight in UFC in 2013. I thought you were so cool,” Zhang wrote back (via Instagram). “Then I was inspired to be like you. In this many-lined UFC star cage to play a part of our women’s territory. You give me confidence and direction. If I want to slack off when I don’t want to train I’ll find you fighting. That gave me a lot of encouragement.”
Zhang (19-1) will need some of that encouragement for her UFC Fight Night 157 main event, where she battles reigning strawweight champion Jessica Andrade. Their bout takes center stage on Sat., Aug. 31, 2019 inside Universiade Sports Centre in Shenzhen, China.
For much more on that upcoming showdown click here.