Invicta champ Carla Esparza dreading 'TUF' house, but happy to prove UFC worth
Strawweight Carla Esparza will bring an impressive credential to “The Ultimate Fighter 20″ as the now-former champion of Invicta FC.
Yet the 115-pound Esparza (9-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) doesn’t expect to be treated any differently when she joins the first all-women cast of the long-running reality show, which begins filming later this year.
“It never even crossed my mind,” Esparza told MMAjunkie Radio. “It doesn’t bother me to have to prove myself. I’ll go in there. All the girls are legit, and to me, it’s just a great opportunity.”
That opportunity comes at the season’s end, which will see the first UFC women’s strawweight champ crowned. As in earlier seasons, “TUF” contestants will live in a Las Vegas house and fight in a tournament for the title opportunity. But for the first time in the nine-year-old series’ history, the tourney winner gets a UFC belt.
Esparza won the Invicta crown one year ago by outpointing Bec Hyatt, who will have the opportunity to avenge the loss when she joins the former champ on the UFC reality show. A total of 11 fighters have been announced for the cast. Coaches for the show have yet to be named.
While some champions may object to a scenario in which they rematch an opponent they recently fought, Esparza said she has no problems with any potential fights in the house.
Even before she agreed to the reality show, Esparza reportedly got $40,000 from the UFC to ease the transition to the octagon. Others got $32,000.
UFC President Dana White even called Esparza personally to inform her that she was welcome in the promotion before the UFC’s adoption of a new women’s division was made public.
“I feel like they’re taking care of me and they appreciate me as a champ, but at the same time, I’m going in there like everyone else,” she said. “I’m going to have to fight like everyone else, and I don’t mind that.”
If there’s anything that Esparza isn’t particularly excited about, it’s another defining feature of being on the reality show: shared accommodations.
“I’m excited, but honestly, that’s a long time to be in a house with 15 other girls,” she said with a laugh.
In all likelihood, though, Esparza might not have the energy for drama given the show’s grueling training schedule, which calls for multiple training sessions per day and potentially several fights within the span of a week. After a one-year layoff, the jump in activity could be a shock.
But then again, the opportunity is something no fighter would pass up. Esparza currently enjoys a four-fight winning streak, with her only losses coming via split decision to Jessica Aguilar and the once top-ranked Megumi Fujii.
For more on the UFC’s upcoming scheduled, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
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