- Name: Carla Esparza
- Pro MMA Record: 18-6-0 (Win-Loss-Draw)
- Nickname: The Cookie Monster
- Current Streak: 5 Wins
- Age: 1987-10-10 | Date of Birth: 1987.10.10
- Last Fight: May 22, 2021 in UFC
- Weight Class: Strawweight | Last Weigh-In: 116.0 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 straweight fighter currently signed to Invicta FC. Throughout her career, she has competed in regional shows throughout the United States as well as twice in Bellator, including their first women's tournament. Both of her career losses have been in Bellator.
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 sucess 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 Brazillian 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 then-undefeated Megumi Fujii. She was defeated by armbar in the second round and eliminated from the tournament. Esparza was again defeated in Bellator by Jessica Aguilar by split decision in 2011. After her last Bellator stint, she defeated Felice Herrig at XFC 15.
Carla was then picked up by the all women's promotion, Invicta FC. In her time there, she has picked up two wins by TKO. She later took on Bec Hyatt at Invicta FC 4 for the inaugural straweight belt. She demonstrated why she was highly favored in the fight as she utilized her wrestling ability to win a five round decision and capture the title.
Following the Ultimate Fighter 20, Esparza was slated to fight fellow
finalist Rose Namajunas for the inaugural UFC strawweight championship.
Esparza would go on to win the fight via rear naked choke in the 3rd
round. Carla would attempt to defend her belt for the first time at UFC 185 against Joanna Jędrzejczyk. 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.
The Ultimate Fighter 20
Episode 4 Esparza Def. Angela Hill by Rear Naked choke in round 1
Episode 11 Esparza Def. Tecia Torres by Majority Decision
Episode 12 Esparza Def. Jessica Penne by Unanimous Decision
The Ultimate Fighter 20 finale Esparza Def. Rose Namajunas by Rear Naked Choke in round 3