Chinese mixed martial arts (MMA) star Zhang Weili will face reigning champion Carla Esparza on November 12 in the UFC 281 co-main event at Madison Square Garden in New York, the UFC said on Sunday.
"There have been five champions in UFC strawweight history, Carla is the only one that I haven't fought with. I'm sure both of us will give our best performance," said Zhang.
"I want to thank Carla for taking the fight. Let's get everything ready and give fans a great fight."
Zhang became the first Asian to win the UFC title in 2019. Losing her belt to Rose Namajunas in 2021, Zhang struggled back this year with a knockout over Joanna Jedrzejczyk in their June rematch. She yelled out her desire to fight Carla at once, but Carla didn't take the offer until recently.
"My goal is to win the belt, as always," said Zhang.
Zhang will become the third UFC female fighter to regain the strawweight belt if she can get by a top-form Esparza, who has won six straight, including victories over Michelle Waterson, Marina Rodriguez and Namajunas.