Carla Esparza can’t understand why a rematch with UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas would be a hard sell.
Considering not only does Esparza (18-6 MMA, 9-4 UFC) hold a submission win over Namajunas in the division’s inaugural title fight in 2014, but she’s officially the No. 2-ranked strawweight with recent wins over top contenders Marina Rodriguez and Yan Xiaonan.
So with UFC president Dana White claiming that there are other options for Namajunas (11-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC), the former champion disagrees.
“Honestly that’s how I feel, that there’s really not a lot of other options,” Esparza told MMA Junkie on Tuesday. “I’d love to hear what the UFC or Dana would come for as the next option that they’re kind of talking about. But I personally, as a fan of the division and this sport, I couldn’t really think of any other fight that really makes sense, so we’ll see what they come up with. But in all actuality, I think Rose and I is a fight that makes sense. It’s a fight that she wants, it’s a fight that I want, so hopefully it happens.”
Namajunas is coming off a successful title defense against Zhang Weili this past weekend at UFC 268, her second straight win over her. In the post-fight press conference, Namajunas said that rematching Esparza would be the logical next step, but Esparza isn’t sure if that guarantees her the title shot.
“I mean, you never know with the UFC. They could always throw out whatever, but like I said, this is the only fight that makes sense,” Esparza said. “I think I made a statement in my last fight. I think Rose wants the fight. She thinks in her mind, at this current time, that this is the toughest fight for her. She wants to avenge her loss, and there’s nothing but respect between us, but I don’t think that’s gonna stop her from trying to take my head off and get that win.”
Esparza’s win over Namajunas came seven years ago in the Season 20 “Ultimate Fighter” finale. Both have grown exponentially since then, but Esparza’s collegiate wrestling background poses an interesting threat to the champion’s well rounded game.
When asked if she’s stylistically Namajunas’ worst matchup, Esparza respectfully acknowledged her growth.
“Stylistically, it’s hard to say,” Esparza said. “I think when we fought the first time, I was a bad matchup for Rose. But it’s been seven years, so a lot of her fights have been contended on the feet, but that’s not to say that she hasn’t been working a lot of things in the back, too, so I’m excited to see after all these years what improvements have come. I think it’s gonna be a much different fight.”