Since losing back-to-back bouts last year, Carla Esparza has turned things around and her future is looking brighter than ever inside the Octagon.
Esparza (15-6) didn’t have an easy road on Saturday in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 159 in Mexico City, though, as she almost gave away victory to opponent Alexa Grasso down the stretch. “Cookie Monster” landed several powerful strikes and scored multiple key takedowns in Rounds 1 and 2. However, Grasso rallied in the third, as she wobbled Esparza with punches to the head and threatened with an armbar late in the contest.
Grasso (11-3) blasted Esparza with a wicked overhand right to the head, buckling her knees. The Lobo Gym MMA product couldn’t finish her opponent off and had to settle for a judges’ verdict, which was given to Esparza via majority decision. The bout was as close as they come and it received “Fight of the Night” honors. There was quite a bit of debate regarding the result on social media once “Cookie Monster” was given the win, and Esparza said she understands where some fans were coming from. Those in attendance who loudly booed the result were another matter.
“For me, when you watch a fight, even if someone dominates one round or the last round, you still have to win two of the three rounds,” she said after her win. “I felt like I decisively won the first two rounds. Of course, I understand that the Mexican fans are very passionate about their fighters, but I was a little disappointed in a couple of them, of how they reacted. I was really disappointed in that.”
Fans jeered and booed the decision, largely because local fighter Grasso didn’t get the win. Many in attendance angrily yelled at Esparza and the judges and it didn’t sit well with the Californian.
“There were a lot of fans in the crowd that still do support me and I appreciate that,” she said. “I don’t look bad at everyone just because of a few apples and thank you to everyone who supported me and understood the way the fight went.”
Esparza, the inaugural strawweight champion for both the UFC and Invicta FC, badly wants to ascend the ladder again and become champion once more. She said she is looking forward to taking on higher-ranked foes, but stopped short of calling anybody in particular out.
“I’ve never turned down a fight,” she stated. “I fight whoever is in front of me. I plan to take a little bit of time off now and then just get back to work and keep bettering myself.”