Carla Esparza Reveals Fight with Zhang Weili at UFC 281

Carla Esparza UFC
Carla Esparza, UFC 274 Pre-Fight Press Conference Credit: Eddie Law/Cageside Press

It appears New York’s UFC 281 Pay-Per-View has a second title fight lined up.

The November 12, 2022 event will see Carla Esparza defend her women’s strawweight title against Weili Zhang, in what is expected to be the co-main event of the evening. Ariel Helwani first reported the date, with UFC President Dana White previously stating the winner of Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk earlier this year would be granted a title shot.

Esparza herself confirmed the news on Thursday, stating that the match-up was “official.”

Esparza (19-6), the UFC’s inaugural 115 pound champion back in 2014, dethroned Rose Namajunas in May at UFC 274 to reclaim the title roughly seven years after she had lost it. “The Cookie Monster” has won six straight, but her win over Namajunas, and the fight as a whole, was widely derided as one of the dullest UFC title fights of all time.

With both Namajunas and Esparza having claimed two-time UFC champ status, Zhang (22-3) will look to do the same at UFC 281. The Chinese star captured gold by defeating Jessica Andrade in 2019, and defended the belt once, in an instant classic against Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248 just prior to the coronavirus pandemic hitting western shores.

Zhang later lost the belt to Namajunas, and dropped an immediate rematch against “Thug Rose.”

UFC 281 takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York on November 12, 2022. The following bouts have been reported for the card thus far:

  • Israel Adesanya (c) vs. Alex Pereira – for the UFC middleweight championship
  • Carla Esparza (c) vs. Zhang Weili – for the UFC women’s strawweight championship
  • Molly McCann vs. Erin Blanchfield
  • Dominick Reyes vs. Ryan Spann
  • Michael Trizano vs. Seung Woo Choi
  • Renato Moicano vs. Brad Riddell