As she enters her second reign as UFC strawweight champion, Carla Esparza isn’t trying to dictate her next opponent, but she certainly has ideas in mind.
With two wins over Rose Namajunas, capped by a split decision victory at UFC 274 to reclaim the title, Esparza is ready to put her rivalry with ‘Thug Rose’ in the past, in the hopes that she can reignite some. another instead.
On June 11 at UFC 275, Joanna Jedrzejczyk takes on Zhang Weili in a featured fight on the main card – and if Jedrzejczyk is successful, Esparza would love the chance to avenge a loss to the woman who first took the belt from him. . in 2015.
“It would be such a great time to come back and fight my fight, and I feel like I’ve come such a long way since then,” Esparza said of Jedrzejczyk on MMA hour.
“She just sat on the sidelines, so I really feel like it would be a different fight. It would be sweet revenge or sweet justice, whatever you call it.
UFC President Dana White has previously targeted Jedrzejczyk vs. Zhang 2 as a potential No. 1 contender fight, especially after their first encounter was announced as the fight of the year in 2020.
The rematch should produce so many fireworks, but Esparza knows that the rematch with Jedrzejczyk would mean more to her personally just because of their previous interaction.
Another loss that stands out on Esparza’s record came in 2018, when it was finished by the former The ultimate fighter winner Tatiana Suarez at UFC 228.
It was the last time Esparza tasted defeat before her current six-fight winning streak, and this particular setback was damaging in more ways than one, as it also left Esparza wondering if she would ever return. in the fight for the title.
“When I lost to Tatiana, it was definitely a devastating loss,” Esparza explained. “Losing that way in my own game was a tough pill to swallow. I can say that by that point I had given up hope of fighting for the title again. It took a lot of work and changes to happen. Just trust this process and follow the steps over time. Over time, I gathered more hope because the things I was doing gave me success.
“Tatiana has been injured for almost three years. It shows that anything can happen in this game. Styles make fights. Sometimes someone can beat you, sometimes the stars can align. Someone you lost to can get beaten by someone you can beat. Just the way things work. I think it’s about keeping an open mind, like never giving up. In a fight, you can lose 14 minutes of that fight, but if you don’t give up, you can come back and knock someone out. It is this mindset that can bring you success. I think it brought me success.
It appeared after his victory over Esparza, as well as an additional victory against Nina Nunes, that Suarez was about to have his own opportunity to compete for UFC gold, but it never happened.
Unfortunately, Suarez is facing long-term health issues that have kept her out of competition since 2019. She was last scheduled to fight at UFC 266 in September 2021 but was eventually forced to pull that card as well. .
As much as Esparza would love the chance to erase that loss from her record too, she doesn’t expect to cross paths with Suarez again, not only because of the uncertainty surrounding his ability to fight at the moment, but the two-time medalist. bronze at the World Wrestling Championships is expected to compete at 125 pounds when she finally returns.
“Even if she made a comeback, I don’t think it would happen again,” Esparza said of Suarez. “But, I mean, it’s always nice to have the opportunity to avenge a loss. Most of the people I lost to are retired or out of the UFC except for Joanna and Tatiana.
“It’s always good to have this opportunity. I feel like I’ve come such a long way since I fought them both, so it would be nice to avenge a loss. But whoever I fight, I fight. The rematch with Rose was my very first rematch.