UFC strawweight champion Zhang Weili’s next title defense has a location. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto interviewed UFC President Dana White to discuss upcoming UFC events and plans for the year. In the interview, White revealed that Weili’s next opponent would be Rose Namajunas or Carla Esparza. He also admitted that the goal is to have Weili’s title defense happen in Asia.
“Obviously, the fight everybody wants to see is her and Rose. Hopefully, we can get that done. If not, the next one in line would probably be Carla Esparza, so we’re looking to do that fight this year and in Asia.”
Namajunas recent win was a split decision over Jessica Andrade at UFC 251 on July 12, 2020, at the Flash Forum Arena on Yaz Island, Abu Dhabi. The UFC hasn’t been able to confirm Namajunas as Weili’s next title defense. In an interview with ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, Namajunas said she planned to fight Weili next. It is unclear why Namajunas hasn’t been named the number one contender.
Esparza has earned her place in being in consideration for a championship opportunity. She is on a four-fight win streak and has worked her way up the strawweight rankings. Her last win was a split decision over Marina Rodriguez at UFC on ESPN 14 on July 25, 2020, at the Flash Forum Arena. Esparza was in talks to fight Amanda Ribas at UFC 256 on December 12, 2020, at the UFC Apex Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. However, MMA Fighting’s Guilherme Cruz, Damon Martin. and Mike Heck reported the date prevented it from happening. If Namajunas can’t compete, Esparza will look to become a two-time strawweight champion against Weili.