Zhang Weili, China’s first-ever UFC champion, competed in the strawweight division (21-2). Ari Emanuel, the promotion’s owner, didn’t seem to know who she was after she competed in the UFC 261 co-main event.
The UFC became a publicly traded company on Thursday. Just days after the massive UFC 261 event in Jacksonville, Florida, Emanuel got in front of the cameras for a change to discuss the news.
“Well, here’s what I’d suggest to you: even during the pandemic—when we didn’t have live audiences, when we didn’t have commercial PPVs—we beat our EBITA [earnings before interest, taxes, and amortization] number by 10%,” Emanuel told CNBC (via MiddleEasy).
“With the re-opening, you just saw that for the first time, we had live audiences. There will be a live audience in Houston. We’ll have another live audience in July. On Fight Pass, our direct-to-consumer company has increased by 40%. Our commercial and marketing numbers are both increasing. China will grow to be the largest country on the planet.
“Actually, the fight drew over a billion video views from China, despite the fact that our Chinese winner, Li Na, lost.”
Obviously, the Chinese champion Emanuel is referring to is Beijing’s Zhang – the UFC does not have, and has never had, a Li Na. Liang Na competed in the event’s first bout against Ariane Carnelossi, whether out of genuine ignorance or misunderstanding on Emanuel’s part.
Zhang entered UFC 261 as the 115-pound champion, having successfully defended her title in an instant classic against the iconic Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Unfortunately for China’s best, she fell short of a picture-perfect head kick from former champion Rose Namajunas and finished 261 in just a minute and 18 seconds.
Zhang, like UFC President Dana White, expressed interest in rematching Namajunas soon after the defeat. It’s unclear if this would actually happen.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM.