Carla Esparza is thrilled to be a UFC strawweight champion again, even if her second win over Rose Namajunas came after one of the most lackluster title fights in the promotion’s history.
“That is always a bummer,” Esparza stated at the UFC 274, post-fight press conference. Esparza won a split victory over Namajunas, with an audience of cheers. “You always want to put on a show for the fans, so it’s unfortunate to be a part of a fight like that.
“But I felt that I was putting the pressure on, I was coming forward, I was the aggressor, I was holding on to the center of the octagon, so at the end of the day, I did what I could, and I tried to fight my fight, but fights go like that sometimes.”
Esparza was slightly surprised that Namajunas didn’t engage more aggressively, but she attributed that to the threat of her takedown, which from the start had been her path to victory in the eyes of most MMA observers. When the fight failed to pick up, she didn’t feel overly pressured to change what she was doing – her coaches told her she was on the right track.
“I felt that I fought a smart game plan,” Esparza said. “I felt that if I would have gotten too wild and too reckless, I would have set myself up to be a highlight reel. Rose is a master of timing and positioning her strikes. Rose is a master of timing and placement on her strikes.
As it turned out, Namajunas’ coaches had given the same encouragement, and when the official decision was read, the deposed two-time champ reacted in shock. She was still trying to understand how she had lost.
But Esparza saw a simpler explanation.
“I don’t feel that Rose pushed the pace,” she said. She said, “I don’t feel Rose pushed the pace.”
The prospect of the trio between the strawweights seems dim following their first showing. Esparza is more likely to meet with Zhang Weili, the winner of an ex-champs Joanna Jedrzejczyk/UFC meeting. Esparza, who lost the belt to Jedrzejczyk seven years ago in her first title defense, also welcomed a rematch with Marina Rodriguez.
The match against Rodriguez was another close one on the scorecards, with Rodriguez winning the media division. Headed into the championship rounds, Esparza said she tried to put a stamp on her performance – she just didn’t have a cooperative partner.
” I really want it to be set in the eyes the judges,” she stated. It’s difficult to fight someone who doesn’t want .”
to fight you, I hate to put it that way.