Champion Zhang Weili cleared for UFC 248 while Chinese fighters celebrate in Auckland

Society & Culture

The China Sports Column is a SupChina weekly feature.

Zhāng Wěilì 张伟丽, the current UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion, has landed in Las Vegas ahead of her first title defense against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, which is branded as a co-main event at UFC 248 on March 7.

Zhang, who won her first title back in August with a brutal 42-second TKO of Jessica Andrade at UFC Shenzhen, had been concerned about getting a U.S. visa due to the coronavirus.

Her pre-fight camp has been far from ideal. Originally leaving her Beijing base after

the outbreak to move to Thailand to train, Zhang then moved to the UAE before touching down in Vegas for the final two weeks of camp.

Zhang, the No. 3 ranked pound-for-pound UFC women’s fighter, heads into her title defense as the favorite.

Meanwhile, in Auckland for UFC Fight Night 168, Chinese fighters Sòng Kènán 宋克南 and Yán Xiǎonán 闫晓楠 both won.

Song knocked out his Australian foe, Callan Potter, in clinical fashion. Song had been on the undercard for the Zhang Fight Night in Shenzhen back in August, when he claimed a unanimous decision against Derrick Krantz.

Yan, who competes in Zhang’s strawweight division, scored an easy points decision over the Polish fighter Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Despite not getting the stoppage, the win was Yan’s biggest of her career, pushing her to 5-0 in the UFC and pushing her into the contender rankings.

Both Yan and Song dedicated their wins to Wuhan, with Song declaring, “Stay strong China! Stay strong Wuhan!”


Zhang Weili retains in instant classic, tipped by Dana White as UFC’s next big thing


Kunlun Red Star ends KHL season losing 8 of 9, narrowly misses playoffs

Kunlun Red Star final game

Beijing-based Kunlun Red Star entered the 2019-20 KHL season with high expectations, but they just completed a stunning midseason collapse with a 2-1 loss tonight to Dynamo Riga. It was the team’s eighth loss in its last nine games. It will miss the playoffs by two points.

Kunlun, China’s top professional men’s ice hockey team and the only Chinese team in the Russian KHL, was scheduled to play its game against Riga in Beijing, but the coronavirus forced the game to be moved to Novosibirsk. There was a pre-game tribute to Wuhan:

While the Red Star haven’t made any excuses for their collapse — all of their late-season games were originally scheduled to be played on the road, anyway — the coronavirus epidemic has spurred conversations within the organization for a possible relocation, according to team sources.

The Red Star were founded in 2016 and have been based in Beijing this season (with two home games played in Shenzhen), but officials are now considering the possibility — however remote — of playing all of next season outside of China.

A decision would have to be made by summertime — when the coronavirus epidemic is expected to have died down — in time for the KHL’s September 1 opener.

The KHL, Russia’s top hockey league, has teams from Finland, Latvia, and Kazakhstan. Possible landing spots for the Red Star include eastern Russia, the U.K., or a Scandinavian country, according to Kunlun sources.


Boost for women’s national soccer team ahead of Olympic qualifying home-and-away

Chinese soccer team

The return of footballers Zhang Rui, Fang Jie, and Li Mengwen, who were all nursing injuries, to the national side couldn’t have come at a better time, as the women’s team prepares for a pair of playoff games against South Korea.

The team is scheduled to play in Yongin, near Seoul, on March 6 for the first leg of the playoff before returning to their current base in Sydney for the “home” leg. But with the coronavirus spreading in South Korea, there’s the possibility that the March 6 match will be moved to a neutral location.

If that’s the case, that would mean even more travel to Zhang, Fang, and Li. According to Xinhua, the players were originally denied a visa by Korean authorities, who did not want anyone entering from China. So the three had to fly to Australia — via Thailand — where they immediately hopped on another jet to join their teammates in Korea.

Unfortunately for the team, superstar playmaker Wang Shuang — who is also now recovered from a leg injury — is still stuck in Wuhan. Here she is training on her Wuhan rooftop by herself:

Elsewhere in the world of Chinese soccer, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) announced that the Chinse domestic transfer window would be extended by three weeks to try and help clubs alleviate the huge difficulties caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The international transfer window — set by FIFA — remains unchanged and will close on February 28. However, the CFA announced that it would try to negotiate with FIFA to extend the summer transfer window for Chinese clubs.


And finally, the Associated Press has a list of all the sporting events in China that have been affected by the coronavirus so far.

The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.