Carla Esparza Names ‘More Deserving’ Title Challenger, Addresses Weili Zhang’s Callout

The champ knows who and when she wants to fight.

Carla - Image via @carlaesparza1 Instagram
  • Carla Esparza reckoned Marina Rodriguez is the rightful title challenger and not Weili Zhang
  • The champ has set the record straight on Zhang’s demands

Many may have deemed it a lackluster title win, but one thing certain is that Carla Esparza is now the UFC women’s strawweight champion. And apparently, “Cookie Monster” may not have to wait and see who would come and try to dethrone her as Weili Zhang had already made her pitch after retiring Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 275.

However, Esparza thinks there’s another fighter who is more deserving than Zhang.

It’s not Zhang

In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, Esparza went straightforward about who she thinks is the rightful title challenger. While the recent buzz is mostly about Zhang, the champ think it’s Marina Rodriguez who should get the nod.

“I don’t think [Zhang] is [more deserving],” Esparza explained. “I think that Marina has won five straight, I think she’s beaten top-level competition. She’s been staying active, and for me, she’s proven herself. She deserves a title shot. But for whatever reason, I’m sure there’s a lot that goes into it and Weili is getting the shot. For me, I fight whoever’s put in front of me, but doesn’t necessarily mean I think it’s fair or was the right call as far as the athlete goes.”

“Every time I watch Marina, I see her getting better and better and beating top girls,” she continued. “Even having to knock somebody out twice in one fight in Amanda Ribas. She’s impressive. I definitely think she earned the title fight, and this is just the way it goes with the UFC sometimes. Whether it’s marketing or whatever else the reasoning, that’s just kind of how it goes, and you have to just roll with the punches.”

It’s my call

Well aware that knocking out a former champion is her ticket to a possible title shot, Zhang stated that she wants the title fight with Esparza to happen in October. However, “Cookie Monster” remains unfazed.

According to the reigning champ, she doesn’t want to commit the same mistake she did when she rushed into a fight with Jedrzejczyk shortly after mauling Rose Namajunas at The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale.

Simply put, Zhang would have to wait for Esparza’s timeline if ever she gets to compete for the belt next.

“I had [my thumb] dislocated and taken backward a week or two before the fight [with Rose Namajunas],” she revealed. “I couldn’t even have anyone grab my hand without screaming in pain. I think I did scream one time at the gym. Everyone turned around and I was like, ‘I’m OK, I’m OK.’ I’m getting two MRIs next week. The doctor checked it out, doesn’t look serious, but I just want to be sure. I want to go into this fight camp 100 percent. I want to be my best. As everyone saw from the fight last week, Weili is a dangerous opponent. I want to go into this fight 100 percent, and I’m not going on her timeline or where she thinks is best.”

“Ideally, November-December seems fine for me,” she assessed. “Even if I have to do a little bit of rehab over the next month and not kick up training mode, fight camp style quite yet, at least it will give me time to recover.”

Both Zhang and Rodriguez present a strong case to become Esparza’s first challenger. Whoever gets it, one thing for sure it that some fans will be anticipating a strong comeback from “Cookie Monster,” having been criticized over her last performance.

Published on June 21, 2022 at 12:13 pm
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