Exclusive interview with UFC women’s Strawweight champion, Carla Esparza
At UFC 184, UFC made history with women headlining and co – main eventing the PPV for the very first time in the organization’s history, and the next PPV, UFC 185 will see two titles being defended, with Anthony Pettis defending his UFC Lightweight title against Dos Anjos, and the newly crowned UFC Strawweight champion, Carla Esparza putting her title on the line against the undefeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
It is also worth mentioning that Anthony Pettis was Carla’s coach at TUF 20, and both the fighters will be defending the titles at the next PPV. We had the opportunity to speak to Carla exclusively for the Indian MMA fans before the PPV to get her thoughts on her next opponent, the rise of WMMA and more. Here is the complete transcript of the interview.
AG: In the last 2 years, a lot of attention has been given to women in the UFC, which was unfathomable couple of years ago. UFC 184 was main evented and co – main evented by female fighters. What is your take on the future for women in the UFC?
Carla: I think it’s just going to keep growing and growing, just like MMA has been growing and growing over the last few years. It doesn’t get much better than two female fights headlining a UFC PPV like they did last weekend. So I think it’s going to keep getting better and better.
AG: Do you expect to see a different weight category for women in the UFC, similar to Invicta FC in the near future?
Carla: I don’t think anytime soon. I think if you have any other weight category close to Ronda’s weight, I think it’s going to clear out the division, because I think she’s that good.
AG: You’re one of the fighters who initially began as a collegiate wrestler, and transitioned into mixed martial arts. We also know that you trained in BJJ at the Gracie Academy. How difficult was it for you to transition from wrestling into MMA?
Carla: I think they complement each other pretty well. They’re both grappling sports; but it was definitely something new getting used to putting the back on the mat.
AG: What were your biggest challenges during this transition period?
Carla: I think the transition was learning a new sport. MMA is a completely new sport with different factors; I feel like I already had a great mentality from wrestling – the hard work ethic and knowing how to train. So I feel like it wasn’t as different for me as for most.
AG: A lot of people don’t understand the science behind weight cutting, and how difficult of a process it is for the fighters. Can you throw some light on how you go about your weight cut?
Carla: It’s definitely been a learning process having cutting weight for over 10 years, and I’ve done it the wrong way and I’ve done it a lot of different ways. I think each person is a little bit different, and I think it’s whatever is comfortable for them. But in the end, the way you cut weight is you do it over a long period of time; you do it with dieting and working out. I think that would save a lot of heart problems and it has to do with your body and with your mind.
AG: You’re the first Strawweight champion in the UFC, and will defend the title against the undefeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the co – main event at UFC 185. With Joanna being a renowned Muay Thai fighter, how comfortable are you in matching her in the striking department?
Carla: I feel like wrestling is a big equalizer. I think when people are worried about the takedown, they can’t let go of their striking as much. So I feel like I might be better than what people might think.
AG: What will your game plan be heading into the fight? And how was your training camp leading up to your first title defense?
Carla: My training camp leading up to this fight was really good. I came off another training camp, but I felt like I was already in pretty good shape. And I felt like I was more adjusted to the game plan and technique of this fight before the fight.
AG: How has your life changed since you became the Strawweight champion in the UFC?
Carla: It’s just been pretty busy. I honestly found out about this fight a month after I became the champion, and I was traveling so much. So honestly it hasn’t changed too much other than more media obligations because there was; when I was in camp, I’m in a totally different tempo because I’m dieting and training so I don’t get to do a whole lot, and experience a lot.
AG: Lastly, do you have any message for your fans in India? Have you ever been to India before? If not, what do you think about coming to India in the near future?
Carla: I would love to go to India. I’ve heard many great things about the country; I think it would be an amazing place to visit. I hear there’s some women’s MMA there, so I think it’s really cool and I’m glad it’s growing over there.
Be sure to tune into UFC 185 on March 15th at 8:30 AM (IST) to watch an exciting card, as two UFC titles will be on the line in the main and co – main events, and the former Welterweight champion, Johny Hendricks takes on Matt Brown.