Who was the first UFC champion from China?

Zhang Weili carries the pride of China as she continues to reign as the undisputed UFC strawweight champion.

China / Guang Niu/GettyImages

UFC has gone out of its way to have a foot in the Chinese MMA market. Whether it's training facilities, secondary shows, or prospects to keep an eye on, the UFC is doing everything they can to be a major player in the Chinese MMA market.

The Shanghai Performance Institute is the main project behind the UFC's foothold in China, but the growth of Chinese fighters making their way to the UFC is a big part of it, too. The pandemic was a big part of the Chinese growth in the UFC. Several fighters made their way over to the UFC to fill spots on cards. From that point, there's been a huge influx of prospect-level UFC fighters, but something must be said for the upper echelon.

Names like Song Yadong and Yan Xiaonan come to mind. They are not only higher-end MMA fighters in the UFC, but they have solid wins against tough competition. However, when it comes to the Chinese UFC crown, there's only one fighter who deserves the award, and her name is Zhang Weili.

Zhang Weili's success fill be hard to replicate in the UFC

Weili is one of those champions where, at first glance, one could think the UFC was going out of their way to push a Chinese-born champion. At the same time, her story is nothing short of championship-level.

Weili has experienced the highs and lows of the UFC more than most. She has an interesting role in UFC history, along with Rose Namajunas, in bringing the UFC strawweight division out of the Joanna Jedrzejczyk era and into the Namajunas-Weili feud. Namajunas was considered the top dog and is currently the only blemish on Weili's record. While Namajunas has been forced to move to a new division, Weili finds herself at the top of the UFC strawweight division after most recently defending her title against Amanda Lemos.

That's what makes Weili special both as a story and as a fighter. In her young career, she has already fought the best with five of her last seven fights coming against previous champions. With two losses against Namajunas, UFC fans can't help but wonder if there will ever be a trilogy for Weili to right her wrongs.

Weili isn't just the best Chinese female to ever fight in the UFC, she's one of the best female fighters ever, period.

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