UFC strawweight champion Weili Zhang and fellow Chinese fighters Li Jingliang and Xiaonan Yan have left China amid the spread of the deadly coronavirus which has claimed over 500 lives in recent weeks.
The virus has spread to all regions of China with the rate of infection continuing to rise and has led to several of the country’s major cities coming to a standstill as efforts are made to contain it. Among those who have been forced to flee the country include three mixed martial artists contracted to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (reports MMA Fighting) including Zhang who defeated Jessica Andrade for UFC gold last year.
The three athletes are understood to be staying in Thailand for the next three weeks. Weili Zhang is scheduled to defend her title against former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk on March 7 while Li Jingliang faces Neil Magny on the same card. Yan faces Karolina Kowalkiewicz on February 23 chasing what would be her fifth win out of five in the UFC.
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The reason for the temporary move to Thailand is so each fighter will be allowed enter the United States for the aforementioned upcoming fights, as new TSA rules dictate that any non-US citizen must be quarantined for a period of two weeks prior to be granted entry to the United States if they had recently been in China.
“It’s the quarantine because of the virus,” Weili’s coach Pedro Jordao said to MMA Fighting. “You can’t enter America otherwise.”
In Yan’s case, she will arrive in the United States just two days before her weigh-in. None of the three fighters have shown any symptoms whatsoever related to the coronavirus.
Recently, Weili Zhang hit out at Jedrzejczyk after the Pole posted a coronavirus meme to Instagram. Jedrzejczyk apologised soon afterwards, saying that she didn’t intend to insult Zhang or the Chinese people.