Once Ronda Rousey ushered female fighters into the Ultimate Fighting Championship in February 2013, Invicta FC strawweight champion Carla Esparza knew it was just a matter of time before the Las Vegas-based fight promotion brought in her weight class.
“I believe it was a matter of time. I knew how big our division is. I think the 115-pound division is one the deepest, if not the deepest women’s division. It has, I feel, some of the most entertaining fighters in and outside of the cage. I feel like it was a matter of time,” the 26-year-old told MMAWeekly.com.
“It wasn’t like just one star like Ronda pulling everything together. It was a division of just great fighters. So I knew it was a matter of time. I didn’t know if that time was going to come in my career, but I’m glad it did,” she added.
Esparza is part of The Ultimate Fighter 20 all-female cast fighting to become the inaugural women’s UFC strawwegiht champion. But when the California native began competing in mixed martial arts, the UFC seemed out of reach.
“I had no clue that this would even be possible. I started off fighting for pennies pretty much. I thought, hey, I’m going to fight for a couple of years. Obviously it wasn’t’ something that I was making money in. It wasn’t something I could survive on,” said Esparza. “More opportunities started coming as the time went on. They kept coming, getting bigger and bigger. And now we’re at this point.”
The Ultimate Fighter 20: Team Pettis vs. Team Melendez debuts on Wednesday on Fox Sports 1 and Esparza is grateful for the chance to become a UFC champion.
“I feel the UFC is a dream for everyone. It’s where you want to end your career. It’s where you want to shine. I was just really stoked to get the opportunity.”