Carla Esparza doesn’t feel affected by her underdog status ahead of her next big title fight.
UFC 281 takes place this weekend (Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022) at Madison Square Garden and serves as the venue for Esparza’s first Strawweight title defense attempt of his current run. “Cookie Monster” won the title in an admittedly lackluster performance in May 2022, earning an uneventful split decision win over Rose Namajunas in their eight-year rematch (see highlights).
Former champion Zhang Weili was quickly reinstated as the next by the promotion, and many fans began to express how easy the match would be for “Magnum”. Being an underdog is nothing new for Esparza, however, and at this point in her 12-year career she takes the doubts with ease.
“It’s funny,” Esparza told MMA Fighting. “Before, I used to say at the start of my career that it kinda pissed me off like, ‘Hey, I’m a good fighter!’ But now it just makes me smile and laugh Like I know I have a little secret but people [say] it will happen or it will happen and I’m like OK but deep down I have my secret as you will see.
“But I don’t need to talk about it,” she continued. “It’s been the style of my coach and my team since I’ve been there. Talk in the cage. I don’t need to tell you what I’m going to do. I will show you.
Esparza became the first UFC strawweight champion with her first win over Namajunas fresh on the heels of The Ultimate Fighter 20 (TUF) in December 2014. Namajunas dropped out of the fight via rear-naked choke submission in the third round and Esparza quickly fell to Joanna Jedrzejczyk on her first defense.
Now on a six-fight winning streak, the wrestling-based champion expects her track record to be key against her next challenger.
“I don’t think in my career there’s been anyone I remember or almost anyone that I couldn’t take out,” Esparza said. “Even in my losses, I had some takedowns. I feel confident in my fight.
“I don’t think Weili has ever fought someone like me,” she added. “She’s never had this kind of fight and I think she’s even said it in interviews. We’ll see how she reacts because I’ve never seen her face someone like me so I don’t know not how good she is there. It’s not easy to fight someone completely different from what you’ve seen before.
MMAmania.com will provide live, round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 281 fight card HEREstarting from the beginning ESPN+ “Preliminaries” matches at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the remaining balance of the undercard on ESPN+/ESPNews at 8 p.m. ET, prior to the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
For all the latest and greatest UFC 281: ‘Adesanya vs. Pereira’ news and notes, be sure to check out our full event archive here. For the full UFC 281 fight card and PPV lineup, click here.
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