Zhang Weili on Journey to Being UFC Champion: Escaping Kindergarten and Pretending to Fly



When I was four years old, I did something that made me just as proud as when I became China’s first UFC champion earlier this year.


Since my parents were away working so often, I had been going to kindergarten since I was two years old. I hated it. I cried every morning when my dad would have to drag me there. All I wanted to do was play games. Some of my neighbors thought I had ADHD because I couldn’t sit still — my parents couldn’t even leave the front door open because they knew I’d run out. (Often I’d find a way out anyway.) But at the kindergarten the doors would be locked. And it made me feel like a prisoner.


This one day I can’t remember exactly what we were doing, but I do know that I went to the bathroom. I noticed a pillar beside a window. The window was open.

All I had to do was to somehow get up there.


I’m still not sure whether four-year-olds are supposed to be able to do what I did next … anyway, I put one foot against the pillar and the other against the wall and climbed up to the window. But when looked outside, I saw that it was way too high for me to jump down to the ground.


Fortunately, I had been watching kung fu movies.


In the movies the kung fu masters can “fly.” That is, they kind of float through the air, say, from one tree to another. I wanted to be a master, too — a female one. Where we lived, in the city of Handan, my mother used to dig holes in the ground that I would try to jump out of. If I did, she would dig the hole deeper. The goal was to become as agile and “light” as possible, just like a true master. Sometimes I would stand on my bed with a bath towel tied around my neck (because all superheroes wear capes) and I would pretend to fly.


But standing at the open window, I had no cape. And I couldn’t fly. But I saw that there was a tree close to the wall. Just like in the movies! The decision was easy. I took a deep breath, jumped to the tree, slid down, and — voilà! — I was out.

When the staff found out that I had escaped, my teacher freaked out and called my parents. They went crazy. How can a four-year-old girl get out of a locked building without anyone seeing?


Of course, I had no way of telling them right then. I had already walked home.


More from The Players' Tribune...

© 2018 Fight Network - an Anthem Sports & Entertainment company

  • Facebook - Black Circle
  • Twitter - Black Circle
  • YouTube - Black Circle
  • Instagram - Black Circle