UFC strawweight champion Weili Zhang’s defiance isn’t limited to being inside the cage.
While she’s been hard at work to prepare for her upcoming title defense against Rose Namajunas, she had a recent interview with Chinese media regarding the path ahead. While she praised Namajunas and noted she’s preparing for the difficulties she presents, she also had some comments for former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson.
All of this stems from an episode of his Hotboxin’ podcast earlier this month where he discussed the upcoming matchup with guest Dana White. The exchange in question starts at the 1:57 mark:
Dana White: You know Weili Zhang, our Chinese word champion?
Mike Tyson: Yeah.
White: We want her and rose Namajunas so hopefully we can get that done.
Tyson: Woo! That’ll be tough.
White: Exactly, that’ll be a great fight, and If she beats Rose Namajunas everybody wants to see her move up and fight Valentina Shevchenko, which is another great fight.
Tyson: But listen, Rose is not gonna be a walkover.
White: Absolutely not.
Tyson: She’s so beautiful but she’s so vicious.
Tyson: So beautiful, just a doll baby. Golly.
White: Beautiful little girl that looks like if you saw her over there...
Tyson: She’d eat your heart, destroy you.
From there the conversation shifted to Zab Judah and other topics. The clip itself is brief and rather clear in that there was no disparagement meant to either party, just praise for Namajunas and the understanding that this was an exciting matchup between two talented fighters. The “destroy you“ portion was made as a general statement, not directed specifically at Zhang.
Yet but somehow this appears to have been framed to Zhang as Tyson being dismissive of her and her abilities, as this was brought up in a recent interview and she had some words for Tyson.
From China’s CGTN:
But Zhang is not having it. Addressing the matter with CGTN, Zhang said, “Tyson has no right to comment because he knows nothing about MMA. He knows nothing about me.”
“I will not be affected, but do my best instead, and I suggest Tyson try MMA (mixed martial arts) himself,” Zhang said.
Commenting on her opponent Namajunas, Zhang said she has been preparing “specifically for her skill set.”
“She has great footwork and boxing skills. I have prepared specifically for her skill set,” she said. “I will check my arsenal and pick the suitable weapon to play against her. I know that anything could happen.
It’s not clear exactly where it happened, but there is clearly some sort of misunderstanding here. And either way, Zhang is standing firm in her belief and not looking to take the comments in stride. Whether or not some clarification is to come, she evidently remains focused on the task at hand and not worrying about comments from others.
It’s possible this gets back to Tyson himself, as he’s been known to be an avid MMA fan for a very long time. Maybe at some point he can clear this up if they’re ever to cross paths.
Meanwhile, Weili Zhang is scheduled to take on Rose Namajunas at UFC 261 on April 24th.