Former UFC women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza admitted that she’s interested in fighting current champ Weili Zhang for the belt.
Esparza is coming off of four straight wins over Marina Rodriguez, Michelle Waterson, Alexa Grasso, and Virna Jandiroba. She is 8-4 overall in the UFC and is a former TUF winner and was the first-ever UFC women’s strawweight champion. But since losing her belt to Joanna Jedrzejczyk back in 2015, Esparza has essentially acted as a gatekeeper at 115lbs. After reeling off four straight wins, “The Cookie Monster” now wants that to change.
Speaking to MMAFighting.com’s Mike Heck, Esparza said that she isn’t interested in playing the role of gatekeeper anymore. Instead, she wants a shot at Zhang and believes that good timing could play a role in her sliding in and getting that next title shot at 115lbs.
“That’s what it’s starting to feel like. I feel like I’m kind of the gatekeeper for the young up and comers. I’m tired of being that gatekeeper. I feel like I’m ready for another title shot. I feel like I’m the next fight that makes sense. There’s a lot of people that are out right now, or coming off losses and, for me, I’ve been knocked down and I’ve been crawling my way back to get that shot,” Esparza said.
“I would say I am ready for that fight (with Weili) and with everything going on in the world, it would be like stars aligning. It’s kind of worked out this way and everything is lining up with Rose (Namajunas) out, Tatiana (Suarez) has a neck injury, Nina (Ansaroff) is pregnant and there’s a lot going on in this division right now. I’m coming off four straight wins against tough competition and I think the stars are aligning for this opportunity. My hands are open.”
As Esparza said, the fact that the top contenders ranked above her in Namajunas, Suarez, and Ansaroff are all out. The only other fight that could make sense for Zhang would be a rematch against Jedrzejczyk, but since the UFC just did that fight and Zhang won, it doesn’t seem likely Jedrzejczyk will get the next title shot. So there is a very real chance that Esparza could step in and fight Zhang, particularly if the UFC hopes to have its Chinese champion fight again in the next few months. Esparza may be the most logical option.
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