The women's strawweight stopped Jessica Andrade in 42 seconds to win the title on home soil in Shenzhen on Saturday.
Zhang became the first UFC champion from China and only the second UFC titleholder ever born in Asia.
For Zhang it was the ideal result in front of a raucous home crowd at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre Arena - and one that many felt would now propel her to superstardom while bringing a major boost to the UFC as it continues its pursuit of the riches of the Chinese market. "The fight that happened tonight, the UFC is a global sport, so tonight Weili Zhang's performance was so good and so big that people were watching this fight in Canada, United States, Brazil, and the Middle East". "And I made it", Zhang said through a translator.
Those punches put Andrade on the canvas, and when Zhang went to the mat with her for more punches, the end was near. She has not lost since her pro MMA debut in 2013.
Weili Zhang (20-1 MMA) has gone 4-0 under the UFC banner, scoring decision wins over Danielle Taylor and Tecia Torres, while submitting Jessica Aguilar with an armbar.
China has been a focal point as the UFC continues to expand internationally. Now, the UFC has a champion in Zhang who can help it secure a foothold in the country. "I wasn't able to perform as I wished, but hopefully I get a chance to fight he again", Andrade said.
The Chinese standout will likely have options for her first UFC title defense. Andrade, 27, is 7-2 in the UFC strawweight division after moving down from bantamweight and is tied for the most wins among women in UFC history.
"I brought my belt in here to defend it ..."