Carla Esparza knew there was a chance that her title fight against Rose Namajunas might coincide with her upcoming wedding but even she couldn’t have predicted the actual timing.
When she received the offer from UFC 274, Esparza to be her strawweight champion, she had to decide because she planned to marry her husband exactly one week after the announcement. Even if she wins May 7,, Esparza might still look like she’s just been through five rounds of war.
” It’s insane,” Esparza said to MMA Fighting. “Planning a wedding, just with itself is super stressful and it’s a lot of work and getting ready for a fight is the same, especially a title fight. This is definitely an overwhelming task.
” I’ve been beaten up after a match of jiu jitsu, and even cut. It’s impossible to predict what could happen during a fight. It’s possible to be quite messed-up and no bride would want to appear all bruised and battered on her big day. She wants to look and feel beautiful. It was a decision I kind of struggled with a little bit.”
With two major events planned in just seven days, Esparza needed to have a conversation with her fiancé about what the best decision was. The UFC wouldn’t move an entire event because Esparza already had her wedding.
“I went to my fiance and I said I have this amazing news but I’m kind of stuck with a little bit of a dilemma,” Esparza said. I don’t know where to start. I don’t want to go in looking like this. It’s not clear what will happen. He was just so supportive and he said ‘I knew when I asked a fighter to marry me, I knew what it came with, bumps and bruises are a part of your job and that’s OK with me and you’re going to look beautiful to me no matter what’ and he was just super supportive.
“For me, I want him to think I look beautiful on our wedding day so his opinion and his thoughts were a huge factor of my decision. That support helped me make the decision to keep the wedding [on that date.]”
Ideally, Esparza would love to have a little bit more time between her title fight and the wedding but she’s long since reconciled with the decision to keep the two dates just a week away from each other.
She knows the risks involved because superficial wounds are almost expected, especially when dealing with a five-round title fight. Ultimately, Esparza knows her wedding will be memorable no matter what — and thanks to her upcoming bout with Namajunas at UFC 274, she’ll have plenty of photos to prove it.
“I feel that if I win the title, that is just so huge and I would be so excited for that,” Esparza said. “I feel like I’m winning no matter what marrying my fiance. That’s the biggest prize for me. It’s close. It’s definitely up there, too. This is how my entire career has been built up. Worst case, you have to retake some photos, and you can wear your gown twice.
“I would say you’ve just got to roll with the punches in life, even during the whole pandemic, I took fights and I was like whatever. Good things will happen for you if you just accept the situation. This is how I feel about it all. Just say yes.”
Esparza, who is looking forward to reliving her experiences with Namajunas on Saturday, just seven years since their last meeting in The Ultimate Fighter season 20 final.
On that night, Esparza was an underdog to a less experienced opponent but she came away as the first ever UFC strawweight champion following a third round submission win over Namajunas.
The same exact scenario will exist at UFC 274 with Esparza once again finding herself going up against a heavy favorite in Namajunas but she can’t help but hope to duplicate the results even if she’s somehow being counted out before the fight even begins.
“I’ll be honest, she was just going on that show and she was dominating everybody and going into that fight, I was very worried,” Esparza revealed. “It was tough preparing for that fight because she was and still is a very dangerous opponent. Obviously, we’ve both come a long ways since that time but I remember everyone was hyping her ‘the next Ronda Rousey, the next big thing.’ She was the only one on the show to be getting finishes the way that she did so I was super impressed by her and still am.
” Regardless of what people think about you, it is important to accept it. It’s like OK, you’ve got to prove yourself and I think in my last fight, I didn’t really care what people thought. It was more belief in myself. It was more belief in myself that I needed to go into each fight. .”
Know what you have to do
If all goes well on Saturday, Esparza would become a two-time UFC champion and then she will immediately shift gears to go through final preparations for her wedding. Esparza says that the only thing that matters on Saturday is her ring, but she admits that it may be helpful to have an additional accessory.
“Some people have suggested [to wear the title] and I think it would be hilarious and really cool,” Esparza said. “If that’s the case, I might bring it for some photo ops. That would be pretty cool.”