Newly-crowned strawweight champion Carla Esparza will defend her 115-pound title, but not until she’s good and ready. That’s why “Cookie Monster” shot down this recent callout from former champion and current No. 2 title contender Zhang Weili.
“I definitely don’t feel like I’m in a position where I should rush just because Weili wants a certain date,” Esparza told New York Post. “I’m not trying to go on her timeline. I’m the champion, and I feel she needs to go on my timeline.”
Esparza, 34, captured the crown with a tepid decision win over longtime rival Rose Namajunas at UFC 274 back in May. Weili’s suggested timeline of UFC 281 on Oct. 22 in Abu Dhabi is more than six months after her Phoenix victory over “Thug Rose.”
“That was honestly a big regret of mine, letting the pressure push me into jumping back so quickly after having gone through so much fighting [on] The Ultimate Fighter.” Esparza continued. “That was my fifth fight in eight months. It’s really draining. That was a big regret of mine, not letting myself recover a little bit and jumping straight back into it because feeling pressured and wanting to make the UFC happy. But in the end, if I’m losing my title, then what was it all worth anyway?”
Esparza (19-6) is the winner of six straight with three of those contests ending by way of split decision. As for Weili (22-3), she dropped consecutive title fights to Namajunas but recently bounced back by knocking out Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 275.
Hopefully “Cookie Monster” will make her Octagon return before year’s end.