- Name: Carla Esparza
- Pro MMA Record: 19-7-0 (Win-Loss-Draw)
- Nickname: The Cookie Monster
- Current Streak: 1 Loss
- Age: 1987-10-10 | Date of Birth: 1987.10.10
- Last Fight: November 12, 2022 in UFC
- Weight Class: Strawweight | Last Weigh-In: 114.6 lbs
- Affiliation: Team Oyama
- Height: 5'1" (155cm) | Reach: 63.0" (160cm)
- Career Disclosed Earnings: $594,000 USD
- Born: United States
- Fighting out of: Redondo Beach, California
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Carla Esparza is an American strawweight fighter currently competing for the UFC and Is their reigning undisputed Strawweight Champion. She has previously competed for Invicta, XFC, and Bellator. She Is the Inaugural Invicta FC Strawweight Champion and the winner of The Ultimate Fighter 20 tournament where she would capture the Inaugural UFC Woman's Strawweight Championship.
Esparza's background is primarily in wrestling, having competed at both the high school and collegiate levels. While wrestling for Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, California, she won numerous state and national wrestling tournament. Her high school success led to a scholarship to Menlo College where she was coached by two-time Olympian, Lee Allen. She was twice named an All-American. During college, she began training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the Gracie Academy in Torrance under Rener, Ryron and Ralek Gracie. She then expanded her mixed martial arts repertoire when she began training at Team Oyama during the summer of her junior year of college.
Only six months after her pro debut, she was invited to take part in Bellator's first women's tournament as a last-minute replacement. Her first Bellator opponent was the then 20-0 undefeated Megumi Fujii. She was defeated by armbar in the second round and eliminated from the tournament. Carla would then take two regional fights defeating Nina Nunes and Yanira Anzaldua before returning to Bellator where Esparza would lose to Jessica Aguilar by split decision in 2011. After her last Bellator stint, she defeated Felice Herrig at XFC 15.
Carla would then sign with the all female promotion, Invicta FC. She would then pick up two TKO wins against Sarah Schneider and Lynn Alvarez before challenging for the inaugural Invicta strawweight championship against Bec Rawlings at Invicta FC 4, Carla showed why she was a huge -1100 favorite as she dominated Rawlings on the ground to win a five round decision and capture the inaugural title.
She would then compete on the 20th Season of the UFCs Reality Show, The Ultimate Fighter. Esparza would choke out Angela Hill in the first round, win a close majority decision against Tecia Torres in the quarter finals and then defeat Jessica Penne by Unanimous decision in the semi's to secure her spot in the season finale for the inaugural UFC Strawweight title. Her opponent in the finale would be Rose Namajunas. Carla would choke Rose out in the third round to capture the inaugural title. She would make her first scheduled attempted defense against Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 185. However she was completely dominated in the stand up and was only able to land one take down en route to being finished by TKO in the second round.
Just like that her title reign came to an end but Carla would make her return just over a year later when she defeated Juliana Lima by unanimous decision at UFC 197. She would then fight Randa Markos and lose a close split decision. at UFC Fight Night 105: Lewis VS Browne. She would then defeat Maryna Moroz and Cynthia Calvillo before losing a split decision to Claudia Gadelha and then fighting the undefeated and quickly rising prospect Tatiana Suarez at UFC 228, Suarez would dominate the former champion both in the clinch and on the ground and put her away in the third round. This would mark the first and thus far only time in Carla's entire career that she has been on a losing streak.
Carla would bounce back from her loss against Suarez with a win against the then 14-0 undefeated Virna Jandiroba by unanimous decision, she would then win two back to back close decisions against Alexa Grasso and Michelle Waterson before she took on the undefeated Marina Rodriguez in a very odd performance Carla would take Marina down every round and hold Marina there for a big part of the round en route to winning the round but close to the end of the rounds she kept going for leglocks which allowed Marina to get up and start dealing damage. Carla would win a somewhat controversial split decision though, taking Marina's 0 and extending her winning streak to 4. Carla would then take on rising contender Yan Xiaonan In the Co-Main event of UFC Fight Night: Font VS Garbrandt. Carla would dominate the Chinese fighter on the ground before finishing her from crucifix in the second round. This win would earn her a title shot at the newly crowned champion, Rose Namajunas.
Carla would face Rose Namajunas almost a year after her fight with Yan Xiaonan In the Co-Main event of UFC 274. She would look to repeat what she did almost 8 years prior when she defeated Rose to capture that inaugural title. What was an exciting clash of styles between a striker and a wrestler on paper turned out to be one for the history books but not for the right reasons as It was unanimously agreed to be one worst MMA fights of all time as neither fighter threw much at all through 5 rounds. Neither fighter landed more than 40 strikes through the whole 25 minutes. Carla would however succeed in recapturing the Strawweight title via a split decision. This would mark the longest time between title reigns as It had been 2612 days since Carla last held the title. Carla would get married the week after her historic title fight with Rose.
Now with Carla at the top of the division we have a lot of hungry and exciting challengers looking to stake their claim at that belt. Her former opponent Marina Rodriguez has put together an impressive win streak since their fight in 2020. Former Champion Jessica Andrade returned to the division in style finishing surging prospect Amanda Lemos via standing arm triangle, and lets not forget former champions Zhang Weili and the woman who cut Carla's inaugural title reign short, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. There Is no shortage of exciting fights to be made at Strawweight and Carla has plenty of opponents waiting in the wings for whenever she is back from her honeymoon and ready to defend her title once again.