5 of the best Chinese fighters right now

MMA in China is more popular than ever thanks to these five fighters.
UFC 281: Adesanya v Pereira
UFC 281: Adesanya v Pereira / Jamie Squire/GettyImages
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1. Zhang Weili

Two-time UFC strawweight champion and No. 2 pound-for-pound women's fighter Zhang Weili is the best fighter from China right now. Her eleven knockout wins and eight submissions establish her as not only one of the most well-rounded mixed martial artists today regardless of gender, but as one of the best period.

Weili was born in the northeast region of Handan, China. A prodigious natural athlete from a young age, she participated in many sports but took her first martial arts classes at 3 years old. She found joy and success training kung-fu, sanda, and traditional Chinese wrestling known as shuai jiao.

Despite her background, Weili did not immediately gravitate toward MMA and instead found herself working odd jobs taking desk duty, teaching kindergarten classes, and eventually receptionist at a gym. This last gig proved to be a turning point for her as she came into contact with all sorts of athletes, especially those part of China's budding MMA scene.

Trainer and manager, Cai Xuejun eventually scouted Weili and convinced her to give fighting a go as he saw great potential in her. Through this connection, Weili began training, but dropped her first professional fight because she was only a part-time mixed martial artist at this point.

Xuejun convinced Weili to quit her job and focus fully on MMA. This led to Weili dominating the Chinese regional scene and eventually picking up the Kunlun Fight strawweight championship. Weili stayed busy during this time, fighting an impressive eleven times in 2017 alone. This put her on the UFC's radar and by 2018 she made her debut with the promotion. By 2019, she had defeated Jessica Andrade in her native China and claimed the UFC strawweight title.

After an all-time classic fight and successful title defense against former champion, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Weili experienced her first UFC setback in 2021. Unfortunately, she lost her title to challenger "Thug" Rose Namajunas and then lost the rematch in a tightly contested split decision later that year.

However, after experiencing the lows of no longer being champion, Weili decided to branch out from her home gym of Black Tiger Fight Club and seek out training from new camps and instructors like MMA legend, Henry Cejudo.

This led to a career resurgence for Weili. After picking up a second win over Jędrzejczyk with a dramatic spinning back fist knock-out, Weili once again found herself as the No. 1 strawweight contender and regained the belt in November of 2022 by submitting Carla Esparza at UFC 281. She has since successfully defended her title, most recently against Amanda Lemos at UFC 292.

Now, Weili is one of China's most popular and recognizable athletes. She has not only been an ambassador for the UFC, but Chinese MMA as a whole. Her likable personality coupled with her technical fighting style have established her as not only one of the most popular UFC fighters today, but certainly as the best active Chinese fighter right now.

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