At UFC 275 last month, Jędrzejczyk collided with Zhang in a much-anticipated rematch. While the spinning backfist that ended the contest in the second round left the Polish star announcing her retirement after an illustrious career in the sport, the consensus was that it pushed “Magnum” into the number-one contender spot at 115 pounds.
While Zhang clearly agreed given her post-fight interview, which saw her call out Esparza for a championship fight in the neutral surroundings of Abu Dhabi, the strawweight queen wasn’t as enthusiastic.
After insisting that her first defense will be on her terms, “Cookie Monster” even suggested that deciding the opening challenger to her second reign isn’t as clear cut as many think it is.
“I don’t think [Zhang] is [more deserving than Marina Rodriguez],” Esparza told MMA Fighting. “I think that Marina has won five straight, I think she’s beaten top-level competition. She’s been staying active, and for me, she’s proven herself. She deserves a title shot.”
One person who disagrees with the champ’s stance is the women who ended her first reign in 2015.
Jędrzejczyk Doubts Esparza’s Willingness To Fight Zhang
During an interview with The Schmo at International Fight Week’s UFC X event, Jędrzejczyk was asked her thoughts on the state of the title picture at 115 pounds, the weight she ruled over between 2015 and 2017.
After reiterating that she and Zhang had been promised the next shot with a win in Singapore last month, the Pole insisted that “Magnum” has done enough to deserve a crack at regaining the belt that she lost to Rose Namajunas last April.
With that, Jędrzejczyk’s believes that Esparza’s hesitancy to agree could be down to the fact she’s “scared” of facing the Chinese contender. (h/t Sportskeeda)
“I don’t know, it’s her choice, her decision, matchmakers, Dana. But we were told the winner of our fight, mine and Weili, was going to be the next challenger for the UFC strawweight belt,” Jędrzejczyk said.
“So, definitely Weili Zhang deserves the title shot. And I know that Carla might be scared, but it’s her choice, you know, it’s her choice. She’s the champ, so she can decide, somehow. Maybe they force her to fight her.”
After a long road back to the top, Esparza, who won the inaugural strawweight gold back in 2014, secured a historic second championship crowning at UFC 274 earlier this year. In a lackluster five-round bout, “Cookie Monster” outpointed the same woman whom she submitted for gold eight years ago, Namajunas.
Having been immediately dethroned by Jędrzejczyk in her first go-around with the strap, Esparza will be hoping to add the opening successful defense to her résumé later this year; a plan that Zhang will be looking to spoil.
Do you agree with Joanna Jędrzejczyk?