Carla Esparza explains why she’s willing to wait for a title shot; Dana White advises her against it
It was only a week after Carl Esparsa destroyed Yang Xiaonan when she received a call and was almost assured that she would not get the next chance to win the light heavyweight title.
Despite five straight wins, including victories over Marina Rodriguez and Michelle Waterson, the former 115-pound champion was asked to take on Mackenzie Dern later that year. This came before the UFC officially announced a rematch for the first bantamweight title between reigning champion Rose Namayunas and Zhang Weili, but Esparza was already starting to see the writing on the wall that she was likely going to be ignored.
“They offered me Mackenzie. [Dern] fight, “Esparza said in a conversation with MMA Fighting. “I think it was about a week after I got home from my last win.
“It was also an indicator that they were definitely not going to give me a title fight next time. If they offer me fights now, then potentially they do not have me in mind for the next title fight. “
Understandably, this disappointed Esparza, who became the first UFC light heavyweight champion back in 2014, having filed a third-round defeat against Namayunas.
Esparza believed that her résumé, combined with the storyline she earned by returning to the title fight – this time with Namayunas as champion – would be enough to get that opportunity.
When the UFC announced that Namajunas would face Zhang again at UFC 268, Esparza was not necessarily shocked, but it also did not soften the blow of failing to land a title shot.
“I can’t say that I was 100 percent surprised,” Esparza said. “I felt I had to fight. Once I won the fight, I expected them to say, “Okay, you have a chance!” I just waited so long and didn’t hear anything, I kind of suspected it was a big chance. I cannot say that I was not discouraged.
“Obviously, this is a huge opportunity that I not only want, but also felt that I deserved. I was discouraged, but just thinking, I can’t control which decision [the UFC] accepted, the best decision for the company. I’m sure they did it in the best interest of the company. I just hope I get the next one and I sit and wait for so long and they pull out something like this again. To be honest, it would be very disappointing. “
Esparza is planning her wedding right now in May, and ideally, if she was going to fight again, it should have happened before that date, but she doesn’t want to make any plans, at least not until UFC 268 takes place.
If Namayunas defeats Zhang again, Esparza sincerely believes that she will be next to the title, but she does not want to take any steps until this fight is over.
“I definitely plan to wait for the winner of this fight and see what shakes up at that moment,” Esparza explained. “If it got to the point where Weili won and they’d say, ‘Okay, we’re going to have a rematch,’ then maybe I should get busy. But I waited.
“It’s been almost seven years since I won my title. I’ve worked so hard to get back to this point, and anything can happen in a fight. I’ve obviously shown that I’m ready to fight anyone in the division, and I’ve done that my entire career. So it’s not about being afraid to fight someone. This is the chance of a lifetime, and I don’t want to lose it out of impatience. “
On Tuesday night, after the release of the latest episode of The Contender Series, UFC President Dana White was asked about Esparza’s expectations for the winner of the Namayunas vs. Zhang match, and he didn’t seem to be thrilled with the idea.
White has never been a proponent of fighters waiting for any opportunity that could potentially leave them on the sidelines for an extended period of time, and this obviously includes Esparza in her current situation.
“I never agree with that,” White said of Esparza’s decision to wait for the title fight. “I mean you saw what happened in the past. When you try to sit back and wait for a title fight, this usually does not happen.
“Things never fall off the way they should, and you end up sitting around for too long and people start to forget about you. Just sitting out is never a wise decision. If you are offered a fight, you must accept it. “
Of course, Esparza knows she can’t wait forever, especially when armed with the knowledge that the UFC is completely unpredictable when it comes to title fights, no matter how much someone seemingly earned the opportunity.
For now, she wants to at least see how the fight for the light heavyweight title ends on November 6, before taking the call again if the UFC calls.
“I will say that I asked [my manager] recently “do they even give me a guarantee that I will get a winner in this or next title fight?” and they’re kind of like crickets, ”Esparza said. “I definitely want to follow up and see what the opinion is.
“I definitely think I deserve it and the fans have supported me in this and expressed the same. I hope this will be a given. It’s a simple answer, but with the UFC you never know how he shakes sometimes. “