Carla Esparza never really had a personal grudge with Claudia Gadelha.
On two separate occasions, the strawweights were paired off to fight as part of Invicta FC but Gadelha was forced out on both occasions — once due to a broken nose suffered in training and another time due to illness.
At the time, Esparza says she had no ill will towards Gadelha at all and even sent her a get well present after she was forced out of their second scheduled fight that never happened.
Despite that apparent good will, Esparza saw a lot of personal shots coming from Gadelha, even after their second fight fell apart. Without a fight on her radar, Esparza says she decided to get into a Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament where she made it all the way to the finals before suffering a submission loss.
Esparza says Gadelha then reveled in her defeat with a post on social media and thus the rivalry began.
“It was not personal,” Esparza told MMAWeekly. “Up until that second time we were supposed to fight, there was no trash talk, no drama, I honestly think it’s just an insecurity in herself having technically backed out of two fights for whatever reason. I think she’s just real sensitive to the issue. I never had any ill will towards her.”
Things only ratcheted up after Esparza was coming back from surgery and looking to get a fight with Gadelha quickly raising her hand as a potential opponent.
The way Esparza sees it, she was only reacting to whatever Gadelha was saying and even today she’s still not really sure where the bad blood between them actually started.
“I didn’t talk any trash and she was just like ‘are you afraid of me, running little girl?’ and she just went off from there,” Esparza explained. “I didn’t even know what was happening. Then her and Felice [Herrig] were going back and forth on Twitter and then I jumped in and it was just all this drama. She’s attacked me on her social media a couple of times with no provocation. Just made posts about me. In her last post, I think she was responding to the flyer I posted from our first two fights, and I said ‘for those of you who don’t know this story, we were supposed to fight a couple of times, it didn’t happen but we’re much different fighters now so I hope this is the fight you’ve been waiting for’.
“She makes this super long post explaining how she got hurt the week of the fight the first time and she’s posting photos of herself in the hospital. Then she starts talking trash about me, she called me a dumb ass and a little girl and I’m just like where is all this coming from? I’ve never disrespected her but she’s talked trash about me on Twitter multiple times. I don’t know what her problem is with me. She just seems like a mean girl.”
The good news is Esparza and Gadelha will hopefully get to settle their differences — whatever they may be — on Saturday night at UFC 225 in Chicago.
Now this isn’t the first grudge match between two opponents who don’t particularly like each other but typically once the fight is over, most athletes are able to let go of that anger and aggression.
For her part, Esparza promises whatever happens inside the cage will be left there, but she’s not entirely sure that she can just forget some of the things that Gadelha said about her in the past.
“That’s a hard one to say. There’s always going to be respect amongst opponents and I’ll definitely shake her hand, win or lose, unless she does some super disrespectful stuff, which I know she’s done in the cage before. But personally, to me all the trash talk doesn’t go away because we fought. She’s been disrespectful towards me for years,” Esparza said.
“I just feel like she’s taken a lot of personal shots at me. I don’t think she’s ever going to be my favorite person but I’ll at least be able to give it a rest and get it out of the way.”