Injured champ Carla Esparza received’t elope into Zhang Weili fight: ‘I am no longer making the an identical mistake twice’


As she affords with accidents, UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza received’t agree to a fight with Zhang Weili at UFC 281 in Abu Dhabi.

Weili (22-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) scored a spinning backfist knockout that sent Joanna Jedrzejczyk into retirement earlier this month at UFC 275 and solidifed her do because the next challenger to Esparza (19-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC). After the choose, Weili known as for the fight to happen on the Oct. 22 tournament, and labeled it “shapely” unbiased territory.

Esparza appreciates Weili’s forward-pondering attitude with a firm pitch for their showdown, but the reigning champ is aloof facing nagging accidents within the fallout of her scrutinized title choose over Rose Namajunas at UFC 274 in April, and the timeline simply doesn’t fit.

“I perceive why she would converse it,” Esparza actually handy MMA Junkie. “It didn’t seem adore she took any accidents. She doubtlessly wants a fight nearer to home. She shot her shot. Sadly that’s no longer a day that works for me, so I’m no longer stressing or rushing to gain assist on a day that works for her. I actually contain some accidents that I actually contain to handle (and) a pair MRIs that I must be getting the following day. So, we’ll peep after the dust settles what date makes sense for us.

“I don’t mediate it’s the relaxation too severe. I’ve already had an appointment with the doctor. He says nothing appears to be surgical. For me, I correct wished that peace of thoughts to gain those MRIs because I’m no longer 100 percent yet, and it’s been a correct length of time (since my last fight). So, forward of I can inaugurate pushing onerous and inaugurate going proper into a camp, I if reality be told would prefer to guarantee I’m no longer going to wound something that’s going to flip proper into a surgical inform. I want to fully rehab and mosey into this camp 100 percent, because I cease contain respect for Weili as an opponent. She’s a extremely sophisticated opponent and I want to enter a camp giving it that respect.”

Esparza’s diligent methodology to getting assist within the cage to fight Weili is a fabricated from ride. When Esparza defeated Namajunas, she made historical past because the fighter with the longest timespan between UFC title reigns, as she reclaimed title gold – 2,618 days after her first elope began in December 2014.

Her first stint on high turned into quick-lived, despite the indisputable reality that. Esparza made correct a 3-month turnaround after turning into the inaugural 115-pound champion at The Final Fighter 20 Finale. It did no longer mosey effectively, because Joanna Jedrzejczyk seamlessly took the strap with a lopsided 2nd-spherical TKO at UFC 185 in March 2015.

It took Esparza bigger than seven years to gain yet every other championship fight at some level of the octagon, and now that she’s assist atop the mountain, the 34-year-faded received’t be forced into accepting a fight when her health predicament is just not any longer supreme.

“That turned into certainly a huge remorse of my profession is going into that fight and being rushed by the UFC into that preliminary fight with Joanna and no longer being 100 percent,” Esparza said. “Now now not being spirited and no longer having recovered fully bodily. She received the fight shapely and sq.. I determined to know the fight. Nonetheless the finest part I’m taking some distance from that, is I’m studying from that. I’m no longer making the an identical mistake twice.”

Unless her MRI scans fabricate negative files that some distance diverge from any present expectations, Esparza doesn’t look forward to her rehabilitation timeline to elongate longly. She has every plan of combating in 2022, and after being sidelined for correct jumpy of 1 year between fights whereas looking ahead to a title shot, a six-to-seven-month stretch in between a clinch and a defense is infrequently ever beyond the scope.

“Ideally, I would possibly possibly well possibly adore to fight in November or December,” Esparza said. “I would possibly possibly well possibly certainly would prefer to fight forward of the year is out. I mediate the in vogue sequence of fights a titleholder is going to contain is one or two fights a year, and I certainly concept to drop in that fluctuate. I want to protect packed with life. I want to fight. This isn’t something that I’m making an are trying to assist some distance from. I adore to fight. So as soon as I can gain assist in there and inaugurate a wholesome camp, I’m going to cease it.”

Though she’s no longer bodily spirited to inaugurate a practicing camp, Esparza’s psychological preparation for Weili is already underway. She is aware of the hazard the aged champion items, and he or she confirmed the an identical respect that Weili gave her after knocking out Jedrzejczyk in acknowledging that it would possibly well per chance well possibly also be a fancy fight.

“She’s very powerful,” Weili said. “She performed (Jessica) Andrade, she performed Joanna and these are some heavy hitters. So I certainly know she has vitality. It sounds as if her grappling has picked up a lot. … She correct appears to be improving and better and I’m certainly impressed with her development over the years. So, identical adore her: I contain to enter this fight effectively-rounded and with a correct game concept.”