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Injured champ Carla Esparza will not rush into Zhang Weili combat: ‘I am not making the identical mistake twice’

Injured champ Carla Esparza will not rush into Zhang Weili combat: ‘I am not making the identical mistake twice’


As she offers with accidents, UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza received’t comply with a combat with Zhang Weili at UFC 281 in Abu Dhabi.

Weili (22-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) scored a spinning backfist knockout that despatched Joanna Jedrzejczyk into retirement earlier this month at UFC 275 and solidifed her place as the subsequent challenger to Esparza (19-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC). After the win, Weili referred to as for the combat to occur on the Oct. 22 occasion, and labeled it “fair” neutral territory.

Esparza appreciates Weili’s forward-thinking perspective with a agency pitch for his or her showdown, however the reigning champ continues to be coping with nagging accidents within the fallout of her scrutinized title win over Rose Namajunas at UFC 274 in April, and the timeline merely doesn’t match.

“I perceive why she would say it,” Esparza instructed MMA Junkie. “It didn’t look like she took any accidents. She in all probability desires a combat nearer to house. She shot her shot. Sadly that’s not a day that works for me, so I’m not stressing or speeding to get again on a day that works for her. I’ve some accidents that I’ve to cope with (and) a pair MRIs that I ought to be getting tomorrow. So, we’ll see after the mud settles what date is smart for us.

“I don’t assume it’s something too severe. I’ve already had an appointment with the physician. He says nothing appears surgical. For me, I simply needed that peace of thoughts to get these MRIs as a result of I’m not 100% but, and it’s been a very good period of time (since my final combat). So, earlier than I can begin pushing onerous and begin going right into a camp, I actually wish to be sure I’m not going to injure one thing that’s going to show right into a surgical state of affairs. I wish to absolutely rehab and go into this camp 100%, as a result of I do have respect for Weili as an opponent. She’s a really robust opponent and I wish to go right into a camp giving it that respect.”

Esparza’s diligent strategy to getting again within the cage to combat Weili is a product of expertise. 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 run started in December 2014.

Her first stint on high was short-lived, although. Esparza made only a three-month turnaround after changing into the inaugural 115-pound champion at The Final Fighter 20 Finale. It didn’t go properly, as a result of Joanna Jedrzejczyk seamlessly took the strap with a lopsided second-round TKO at UFC 185 in March 2015.

It took Esparza greater than seven years to get one other championship combat contained in the octagon, and now that she’s again atop the mountain, the 34-year-old received’t be pressured into accepting a combat when her well being standing is just not preferrred.

“That was undoubtedly a giant remorse of my profession goes into that combat and being rushed by the UFC into that preliminary combat with Joanna and never being 100%,” Esparza mentioned. “Not being prepared and never having recovered absolutely bodily. She received the combat truthful and sq.. I made a decision to take the combat. However the one factor I’m taking away from that, is I’m studying from that. I’m not making the identical mistake twice.”

Except her MRI scans produce damaging information that far diverge from any present expectations, Esparza doesn’t anticipate her rehabilitation timeline to increase longly. She has each intention of combating in 2022, and after being sidelined for simply shy of 1 yr between fights whereas ready for a title shot, a six-to-seven-month stretch in between a clinch and a protection is hardly past the scope.

“Ideally, I’d like to combat in November or December,” Esparza mentioned. “I’d undoubtedly wish to combat earlier than the yr is out. I feel the everyday variety of fights a titleholder goes to have is one or two fights a yr, and I undoubtedly plan to fall in that vary. I wish to keep energetic. I wish to combat. This isn’t one thing that I’m making an attempt to again away from. I like to combat. In order quickly as I can get again in there and begin a wholesome camp, I’m going to do it.”

Though she’s not bodily ready to start a coaching camp, Esparza’s psychological preparation for Weili is already underway. She is aware of the hazard the previous champion presents, and he or she confirmed the same respect that Weili gave her after knocking out Jedrzejczyk in acknowledging that it is going to be a tough combat.

“She’s very highly effective,” Weili mentioned. “She completed (Jessica) Andrade, she completed Joanna and these are some heavy hitters. So I undoubtedly know she has energy. Apparently her grappling has picked up loads. … She simply appears to be getting higher and higher and I’m undoubtedly impressed along with her enchancment through the years. So, identical like her: I would like to enter this combat well-rounded and with a very good sport plan.”

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