Fierce competitors Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk have been honored by popular demand for a bruising encounter that left both fighters in hospital in March – and the Polish powerhouse has hinted that she may not scrap again.
Chinese strawweight champion Zhang and provocative challenger Jedrzejczyk delivered an instant classic at UFC 248, landing the Beijing-based title holder a points victory following a charged build-up after her opponent made a crude reference to the spread of Covid-19 in China.
Figures including fellow UFC star Brandon Moreno had called for the gruelling showdown to be named as one of the fights of the year, and the battle has duly been recognized by the Open Mat Awards and the World MMA Awards.
Jedrzejczyk landed a greater volume of total and significant strikes, although Zhang secured the only takedown and threw more punches, rattling in more than 800 in a much more testing encounter than the first defense of her title that had formed her previous fight, requiring only 41 seconds to beat Jessica Andrade.
I still can’t stop thinking about this fight. One for the ages. Respect to Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk for giving us this all time classic. pic.twitter.com/PpRhcaIIaB
👏 TAKE A BOW, LADIES 👏Zhang Weili and Joanna Jędrzejczyk just gave us one of the greatest fights of all time.Zhang Weili wins by split decision and takes her incredible run to 2️⃣1️⃣ wins in a row!#UFC248pic.twitter.com/tIttCIu89c
Just look at the reaction from the fighters following the end of Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk. Standing O. If that isn’t the fight of the year then we’re in for an incredible 2020.pic.twitter.com/y1XtQcTIUy
Like many fighters, the pair who took part in one of the final fights before the pandemic laid waste to much of the UFC calendar have looked a long way from fighting again at times during recent months, with Zhang appearing to spend more time in training before turning her attentions to a colorful theatrical role last week.
Her victim, who made headlines for sustaining an enormous hematoma during the fight, has treated fans to snapshots showing off her passion for traveling.
The 33-year-old spoke of a “food coma” as she posed with her sisters by a Christmas tree in her homeland on Sunday, enjoying cake, smoked pastries made by her father and dumplings cooked by her mother that she said she ate “only for Christmas”.
Speaking to a podcast last week, she admitted that she had “realized herself” as “a human and as a woman” during her enforced time away from competitive fights.
“Without fans, big money and a fight for the belt, you won’t see [me],” she siad, conceding that it could take up to five years for her to return to the sport.
“I’m busy. There are priorities. I have already proved myself and I am under no pressure to earn money and fight. If I fight, I will do it for myself and for my fans.”
Speaking last month, Zhang scorned traditional gender roles and said she would likely face Rose Namajunas in early 2021.
“I often tell people not to think all female MMA fighters as manly and violent,” she told Open English.
“We know how to fight but it is biased to think we will be violent at home because we get paid for fighting – and it’s not cheap.
“The gender bias has been a headache. Boys can sell lipsticks and girls can box and wrestle. Those are normal jobs.
“Bias does not only bring harm to others but also becomes your own barrier in the world you see, in the kind of person you become and in the life you live.”
Despite his own blockbuster draw against Deiveson Figueiredo earlier this month, Moreno was unequivocal about the fight of the year when he spoke to Hablemos MMA shortly before the verdict.
“As a fan, that fight with Joanna and Weili – I got very excited and I think that should be fight of the year,” he said.