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A post shared by Carla (@carlaesparza1) on Sep 3, 2018 at 7:46am PDT
Carla Esparza was the first women’s strawweight champion in both the UFC and Invicta FC. Compiling an impressive 13-5 record since 2010, Esparza has faced and largely succeeded against the best of the best at 115 lbs. She faces her next test on the road to reclaiming her belt when she meets Tatiana Suarez, a fighter she has known since junior high school, at Saturday’s UFC 228. We sat down with her in Dallas to catch up.
UFC: How has this last camp been for you?
CE: This camp has been great, I’ve been doing a lot more traveling than I normally do, so it has been a different camp in a lot of ways, but it’s been good.
UFC: You’ve spent a lot more time in the Octagon than your upcoming opponent, Tatiana Suarez. Is that a huge factor?
CE: Experience in fighting is definitely a huge factor. Although my opponent has not been fighting as long as I have, she has been wrestling since she was three years old, so I’m not going to take her for granted.
UFC: Thinking ahead to the fight, what’s something you have to be careful of when you face her?
CE: I think she’s really dangerous with her chokes, and her wrestling is great so I really have to be careful and just run my game.
UFC: We’ve seen you refer to Suarez as a friend, and you’re also friends with [fellow UFC fighter] Felice Herrig. It seems unique that you’re friends with people that you’ve faced or will face in the cage.
CE: Personally, I don’t really look at fighting as something where you have to hate someone or trash talk. For me, it’s a sport and you do what you’ve got to do. Business as usual.
UFC: Both you and Tatiana participated in different seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. What’s something you think that both of you have as a result of participating in that show that’s different from fighters who have never been on the show?
CE: Going through The Ultimate Fighter definitely tests the mental aspects of fighting. You go through a lot on that show. You’re living with your opponent. It’s a different atmosphere. You’re taken out of your comfort zone. Going through something like that definitely gives the alumni of TUF a mental edge that other fighters don’t have.
UFC: Besides your own fight, what bout are you looking forward to on the UFC 228 card?
"I'm actually really stoked" Find out what @CarlaEsparza1 is excited about heading into #UFC228 in our own Q&A: https://t.co/QKZP9C9kOz pic.twitter.com/7ikqLbGODx
— UFC News (@UFCNews) September 6, 2018
CE: I’m actually really stoked that there is going to be four female fights on this card! You know? That’s a big moment. I don’t know if there’s been another card with that. For me, on the outside, it just shows you how far female fighting has come in the UFC.
UFC: In your last fight [against Claudia Gadelha at UFC 225], a lot of viewers thought you had won. How did you put the disappointment of that split decision loss behind you and keep going?
CE: With every fight, win or lose, you have to put that aside. Your next fight is totally different and independent of the last one. You can’t hold on to a “I won that one” or “I lost that one” way of thinking going into the next fight.
UFC: It’s been a relatively short turnaround for you since that fight, is this a pace you want to keep up?
CE: It always depends on what happens in a fight. Last fight, fortunately I didn’t take much damage. If I come out unscathed, I wouldn’t mind getting in another fight before the year is over.
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UFC: You had some pretty legendary vacation pictures on social media after your last fight. Any plans for a vacation after this one?
CE: [Laughs] Yes! One of my best friends from college, we’ve always wanted to go on a trip together, so we’re gonna head to the DR a couple weeks after my fight.
UFC: Do you have a go-to dessert right now?
CE: [Laughing] I’m The Cookie Monster, so my go-to dessert is always gonna be cookies, but when it comes to almost any dessert, I will put it down: cookies, cakes, ice cream, pie…whatever!
Steve Latrell is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TheUFSteve