Weili Zhang took the strawweight title after quickly knocking out Jessica Andrade last August. Having their first Chinese champion is an important milestone for the UFC’s growth, and they have been immediately trying to capitalize on business opportunities that stems from it.
Just days after her championship victory, the UFC reportedly started negotiating to get $100 million in broadcasting fees in China. On Endeavor’s planned IPO, the UFC’s parent company also touted Zhang’s title win and its impact in the Chinese market and their bottom line.
Plans for Zhang included a first title defense in the US, which would include a heavy marketing push and promotional tour to grow her brand in the West. This would be a smart move as the Chinese audience goes all in on their champions and international superstars, but they’ve hit a bit of a tiny snag on those plans.
As Zhang noted on social media, her US visa application has been denied again, and she expressed some frustration over it.
“My American visa was refused again. I don’t know why,” Zhang wrote on Instagram. “Is it the wrong type of visa I should apply for? Or because I’m a single woman? Or is the visa officer in a bad mood at work today?
“I hope this can be resolved so I can visit and get to meet some of my new friends and fans in America. We are still working on it and hope to have good news in time for me to make the trip on Oct 15th.”
The UFC’s legal team is helping sort things through ahead of a planned US media tour this October. It seems like Zhang will be getting some added support from high places as well, in the form of democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard.
“Wow!” Zhang wrote on Instagram. “I just received news from my manager that miss @tulsigabbard contacted him to try and help us. Thank you thank you miss Tulsi.”
Zhang’s manager also posted a statement from congresswoman Gabbard on social media.
“We need more ties and partnerships between our two countries, in spite of the differences. MMA is an amazing way to do that.”
Zhang said she’ll just be continuing her training as she awaits news of her application. After losing her MMA debut in 2013, the 29-year-old has gone undefeated and compiled a 20-1 record (4-0 in the UFC).