567 days to regain the belt: how the warrior Zhang Weili became the "Zhang Weili of the world"

author:Southern Metropolis Daily

"I'm back!"

On the evening of November 12, local time, New York's Madison Garden Square was full of people, and the UFC 281 series officially began. In the women's strawweight bout, Zhang Weili submitted her opponent naked in the second round and regained the belt after defeating current champion Carla Espaza. After the game, Zhang Weili announced his return, shouting that he "is the Zhang Weili of the world" who won the championship in the United States. A martial arts columnist commented on Zhang Weili's performance in this bout – "[Speed] was too fast, (strength) was too strong, she surpassed Esparza, rendering the latter's wrestling skills useless." It's been a full 567 days since she lost her belt by knockout by her opponent.

From loss and confusion to coming out of the shadows and letting go of obsessions, Zhang Weili has walked for a long time. Nowadays, the more ups and downs in the arena, the more Zhang Weili focuses on herself, "paying more attention to competing with herself." In June this year, Zhang Weili, who had just finished her match with her old rival Joanna Janjechak and directly qualified to challenge the belt, said in an interview with Nandu and N video reporters that challenging herself is more important than getting the belt, "As long as you work hard and do well, the belt will follow." ”

The belt that is now re-held in the hand is the best proof of this.

567 days to regain the belt: how the warrior Zhang Weili became the "Zhang Weili of the world"

China's Zhang Weili celebrates after the game on November 12. Xinhua News Agency

Failed to defend the title

In mixed martial arts, Zhang Weili has had many "firsts": the first Chinese fighter to enter the top 10 UFC world rankings, and China's first and Asia's first UFC world champion.

On August 31, 2019, at UFC Fight Night in Shenzhen, budding Zhang Weili won the opportunity to fight against then-women's strawweight champion Jessica Andrade. Since 2013, he has been officially practicing mixed martial arts, and his high-intensity training day after day has cultivated Zhang Weili's calmness in the octagon.

"In the ring, the moves coming out from the opposite side are like slow motion that breaks apart." Before she could make a move, she could anticipate and attack. Just 42 seconds into the opening scene, Zhang Weili was TKO Jessica Andrade, won the UFC strawweight world championship belt, becoming the first UFC world champion in China and even Asia, and became famous.

After becoming champion, Zhang Weili began to face challenges from all over the world, with Poland's Joanna Janjeczek becoming the first opponent to attack her belt.

In March 2020, at UFC 248 in Las Vegas, USA, Zhang Weili and Joanna fought for five rounds, and finally defeated their opponents by a split decision, defending their belt for the first time. After ending what has been called "the most exciting women's duel in UFC history", both have blue noses and swollen faces: Zhang Weili's swollen right eye socket is thick and bulging, blood from the corner of her eye runs down her cheek to the corner of her mouth, while Joanna's entire face has been deformed, and the two were officially suspended for two months.

After a match defended with body and blood, Zhang Weili failed to hold the belt firmly in her hands. On April 25, 2021, Zhang Weili faced Ross Namayunas in the second belt defense. In the opening 73rd second, Ross hit Zhang Weili in the head with a high sweep, followed by a continuous ground smash on Zhang Weili, who fell to the ground, and the referee stepped forward to terminate the game.

The belt, which had been guarded with a blue nose and a swollen face for five rounds, lost to Ross in a very dramatic way in 78 seconds. In the ring, Zhang Weili's eyes were stunned and confused, and she tightly grasped the referee's hand and said something loudly, but everything was a foregone conclusion.

For a long time, Zhang Weili was trapped in the moment of being knocked down, unable to talk calmly about this game with anyone, "As soon as I mentioned that game, I shed tears and couldn't walk out." ”

Looking back, this became the starting point for Zhang Weili to re-overcome the obstacle.

Six months later, Zhang Weili ushered in a rematch with Ross in Madison Square in New York. In this competition, not only the hard work in the middle and close range, but also the strengthening of wrestling skills, Zhang Weili's physical and mental state was significantly strengthened. After five rounds, the referee decided on a split decision, and Zhang Weili eventually lost to Ross by points, but when the referee raised Ross's left arm to declare the victory, Zhang Weili was already able to smile and applaud to send blessings to his opponent.

It was also in this rematch that Zhang Weili gradually found a way to help herself get out of the doldrums. She once told Nandu reporters that at the beginning of 2022, she began to contact meditation and meditation, trying to clear out all cranky thoughts, and then began to understand that she must "live in the moment".

Now, talking about the game that made her cry countless times, Zhang Weili confessed to the Nandu reporter that she no longer had "any feelings", and even calmly and clearly analyzed the reasons for her second defeat against Ross: "The first game was because she was not mentally ready, and the second game was because she was not physically ready." ”

Regain the right to challenge

In April this year, just after the date of the rematch with Joanna was decided, Zhang Weili went to the training camp in Thailand for final preparations. In Thailand, she "sweated three or four kilograms in one training session", shouting that it is not easy to lose weight, and also enjoyed the joy of visiting the night market during the rare holiday and looking for her childhood to ride the waves by the sea.

"The main thing is that I feel that my heart has sunk." Recalling her preparation experience in Thailand, Zhang Weili, who was once plagued by injuries, told Nandu reporters, "My physical condition is recovering very well, there is no pain, I train hard every day, and my mentality is completely fine." ”

On June 12, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the UFC 275 women's strawweight bout officially began, Teo Weili once again met her old rival Joanna, and the audience burst into cheers.

Expecting it to be a three-round fight, Zhang Weili quickly won the fight in the second round with a turnaround and a whip knockout to Joanna in just 8 minutes.

567 days to regain the belt: how the warrior Zhang Weili became the "Zhang Weili of the world"

Zhang Weili (left) and Joanna Jedelzesik during the game on June 12. Xinhua News Agency

For Zhang Weili, the importance of this victory is self-evident - not only can she directly qualify for the belt, but she also swept away the gloom of losing Ross twice and proved herself with a victory again.

"It feels like I've been reborn in this game." After the game, Zhang Weili told the Nandu reporter.

After the match with Joanna, Zhang Weili challenged then-champion Carla Espara in the octagon, "I know that the UFC had a fight in Abu Dhabi in October, where the fight was fair for both of us. ”

However, Esparza did not seem willing to face the battle easily, and after receiving Zhang Weili's challenge, she said: "I will definitely not decide to rush because of Zhang Weili's contract battle, I don't want to go according to her time." I'm the champion and I feel like she needs to come on my schedule. ”

Espaza's reply was not entirely unexpected by Zhang Weili, who calmly told the Nandu reporter, "She is the champion, and she has no problem choosing the time." Admittedly, Zhang Weili can also get enough time to prepare for the game, "She wants to be later, in fact, for us, there is more time to study the style of play." The preparation time is long, and I know who the opponent is, so everything is quite prepared. ”

When asked if she would feel pressure on the match to challenge the belt, Zhang Weili told Nandu reporters without hesitation that "there is no pressure". For today's self, she says, challenging yourself is more important than getting a belt, "it's about being yourself." After the war, she also has a new understanding of the belt: "In fact, as long as you work hard to do a good job, the belt will follow, it is just an accessory." ”

Between words, Zhang Weili was quite calm about "regaining the belt", "the obsession is not so big." In contrast, she is more concerned about whether she can achieve further growth, "Now it is more of a battle with herself." ”

Just as after her victory over Joanna in the race, she couldn't stop running in the octagon to celebrate. In the post-match interview, she didn't mention the belt, and her excitement came from beating herself. "Very happy! My goal is to crush in all directions. I'm playing against myself, and I can only become a better version of myself if I beat myself. ”

"How can there be so many opponents and spectators? Life is all about understanding yourself. After a little thought, Zhang Weili said to the Nandu reporter.

Reclaim the belt

On the evening of November 12, local time, New York's Madison Garden Square was full of people, and the UFC 281 series officially began, with Zhang Weili playing against Xinco women's strawweight champion Carla Espaza's deputy main match.

Zhang Weili once again appeared with "A Laugh in the Sea", and the scene was filled with the shouts and cheers of the audience chanting his name. Unlike the rematch with Ross at the same venue a year ago, when the audience was filled with boos for Zhang Weili, the away game made her suffer a lot.

"I'm going to give my all to win this game." Before the game, Zhang Weili revealed confidence everywhere.

Since her battle with Joanna in June, Teo has returned to Phuket, Thailand to prepare for the match against Esparza. In view of the advantages of Esparza wrestling and grappling, Zhang Weili even accepted the help of the Hickman brothers in wrestling and enhanced her skills.

In the process of intense preparation, Zhang Weili is still actively sharing her life on social platforms. In addition to training, surfing at sea, making pasta, sightseeing... While enjoying the game, she is also enjoying the life of the moment. "A lot of people think I'm working hard, but I feel happy, happy and not tired at all."

567 days to regain the belt: how the warrior Zhang Weili became the "Zhang Weili of the world"

Zhang Weili surfs in Thailand.

At the end of September, Zhang Weili officially went to Las Vegas, USA, and arrived in New York, the venue of the competition, on the 7th of this month. She said that people will see a different version of themselves in this competition - and this comes from the confidence to be well prepared. "We did a lot of preparation, we prepared everything that everyone can think of." She even predicted, "The game will be exciting, and something amazing may happen at any time." ”

Compared to Zhang Weili, Esparza, who was born as a wrestler, has more solid ground skills. Before the game, many outsiders predicted that Zhang Weili did not have an advantage in ground combat. "If she wants to bring me to the ground, it is not necessarily good for herself, I also want to take her to the ground," Zhang Weili told the Nandu reporter, "To be honest, I have prepared a lot for this competition, I have always been very focused on training to make up for shortcomings, and I very much hope to have the opportunity to test my training results." ”

Just before the start of the bout, a US media outlet asked five martial arts experts to predict the outcome, and the five agreed that Zhang Weili could win the fight and regain the strawweight title. One of the experts commented on her, "As a martial artist, I am always improving. ”

In the end, this strong battle ended in the second round, ending with Zhang Weili winning the ground battle.

The first round of the match ended with a number of tentative shots and entanglements and counter-entanglements on both sides. At the beginning of the second round, Kara took the lead in dragging Zhang Weili to the ground in a hug, and then Zhang Weili launched a ground defensive counterattack, turned into a cross to suppress, and wrapped her arms around Esparza's neck to firmly control her opponent on the ground. Tens of seconds later, Esparza's face turned red and he immediately signaled surrender.

567 days to regain the belt: how the warrior Zhang Weili became the "Zhang Weili of the world"

China's Zhang Weili (top) fights America's Carla Esparza on January 12. Xinhua News Agency

The game is over. Zhang Weili solved the battle cleanly in the way that the opponent was good at in the ground battle. She immediately jumped from the ground to celebrate the victory with a sharp backflip.

The scene was boiling, and the gold belt once again wrapped around Zhang Weili's waist. Unlike winning the belt in China three years ago, Zhang Weili said excitedly in the post-match interview, "The last time I won the championship in China, I think I was Zhang Weili of China; This time to win the championship in the United States, I think I am the Zhang Weili of the world! ”

"I felt like a dream! Every day of effort, every day of sweat, loneliness, (It's worth it.) Perhaps, for Zhang Weili, the moment when she was not knocked down by failure and returned to the peak made her sigh even more, "When you experience difficulties and setbacks, don't give up, persevere, and will definitely get what you want again." ”

In the early morning of New York time, Zhang Weili released the latest video on her personal social platform. In the picture, she has a lost and recovered gold belt hanging from her left shoulder, and behind her team members holding up a five-star red flag, Zhang Weili is full of smiles, and her carefully braid before the game does not show the slightest trace of messiness. She said proudly, "I finally brought the belt back to China, thank you all for your support!" ”

Produced by: Nandu Instant

Written by: Nandu reporter He Jiahui

Read on