Amanda Lemos earned a shot at the UFC strawweight title after going 7-1 in a 35-month span, capped off by stoppages of Michelle Waterson-Gomez and Marina Rodriguez. Now she wants a definitive victory when she faces Zhang Weili at UFC 292 on Aug. 19.
“Weili is very explosive,” Lemos said this week on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “She likes to finish fights just like myself, so we’ll set the octagon on fire. I’ll get in there to win. We have a nice strategy, and I’m sure I’ll leave the cage with the belt.”
Lemos admits she was surprised to land the fight in Boston after months of speculation about a potential UFC show in China headlined by Weili, especially after Chinese contender Yan Xiaonan knocked out Jessica Andrade. But now Lemos is out to make history.
“Weili is very dangerous, so I have to stay alert of all of her movements,” Lemos said. “Her being that explosive is a good thing we’re studying in training. It’s going to be a super tough fight. We’ll give our all in there. She wants her belt, I want that belt for me, so it definitely won’t be left in the hands of the judges.”
A former Jungle Fight bantamweight champion, Lemos scored finishes in five of her seven victories since joining the UFC in 2019, the first three being first-round stoppages over Montserrat Ruiz, Livinha Souza, and Miranda Granger.
Zhang has the exact same 7-2 octagon record with four finishes, but has demolished higher-ranked foes in Carla Esparza, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Andrade, and Jessica Aguilar.
“I’m sharpening my tools in all areas,” Lemos said. “I feel I’m evolving in each training. I have a new jiu-jitsu coach and he’s badass. I’m learning new tricks I can’t wait to put them in practice. I can’t tell you how it’s going to end, but it won’t go the distance. It’s either a knockout or a submission, that’s what I’m coming after on August 19.”
The long-awaited shot at UFC gold comes seven years after Lemos decided to quit the sport due to lack of opportunities as Jungle Fight champion. After working as a motorcycle taxi driver in Belem to make ends meet, Lemos only decided to return to MMA when her manager Wallid Ismail called with a short-notice UFC opportunity against Leslie Smith.
Lemos agreed to it even though she hadn’t trained for months, and then injured herself in training. Lemos still flew out to Glasgow, Scotland, to face Smith and lost via second-round TKO, then was suspended two years by USADA and had to undergo surgery to treat a serious spine injury. She only returned to action in late 2019 to start her impressive strawweight run.
“It was my opportunity, I wouldn’t say I was hurt. I’d still go [and fight Smith] even if I only had one leg or one arm,” Lemos said. “The doctor that did my [spine] surgery told me to find another career, but I always believed in God, and here I am.”