Sources: Zhang, Esparza agree to UFC 281 bout

MMA news

For the second straight year, Zhang Weili will get a title opportunity at Madison Square Garden.

A UFC women’s strawweight title fight between champion Carla Esparza and Zhang, the former champ, has been verbally agreed to for UFC 281 on Nov. 12 in New York, multiple sources confirmed with ESPN.

The fight has not yet been signed, nor officially announced by the UFC. But bout agreements have been sent out, per sources.

Both fighters have posted about the fight on their respective social medias. The news of the fight was first reported by MMA reporter Ariel Helwani.

ESPN has Esparza ranked No. 1 in the world at 115 pounds and Zhang at No. 3.

Esparza (19-6) became a two-time UFC women’s strawweight champion when she beat Rose Namajunas via split decision at UFC 274 back in May. The California native was the first-ever UFC women’s strawweight champion, beating Namajunas to win The Ultimate Fighter — and the inaugural belt — in 2014. Esparza, 34, is on a six-fight winning streak.

Zhang (22-3) is coming off a second-round knockout of Joanna Jedrzejczyk in June. The Chinese-born fighter lost the title to Namajunas at UFC 261 in April 2021 and then lost the rematch to Namajunas at Madison Square Garden last November at UFC 268. Zhang, 33, became the first Chinese-born fighter and second Asia-born fighter to win a UFC title when she beat Jessica Andrade to win the 115-pound belt in 2019.

UFC 281 will be headlined by a middleweight title fight between champion Israel Adesanya and former kickboxing rival and top contender Alex Pereira.

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