New York, NY – Back to at the top of the UFC strawweight division, champion Carla Esparza will get a second shot at defending a UFC title when she takes on former champion Weili Zhang in the co-main event of UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
Esparza (20-6) defeated Rose Namajunas at UFC 274 to become a two-time UFC champion. She wanted to fight at MSG at UFC 281 and got her wish.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way things worked out. I had a good amount of time to recover after the fight and kind of work on some skills. I feel great, I mean, I’m fighting at Madison Square Garden,” Esparza told the media on Wednesday.
Esparza had spoken previously about needing to see a doctor about some issues she had been dealing with before she could accept a fight.
“I had to wait for my clearance from my physical therapist before I could accept the fight. Right off the bat I was like, ‘Madison Square Garden, like yes!’ but I was like let’s do the right thing and wait on my doctor and once I got the go-ahead and the green light it was on,” Esparza said.
Earlier in the day Zhang had spoken about not fearing anything in Esparza’s game to which the champion acknowledged, but added that she’s always been underestimated.
“I think probably a lot of people have thought that about my game, but doesn’t really matter what she thinks or what she fears. I’m going in there with my best game and this is probably one of the best camps I’ve had so I’m just ready to go in there the best me, and kind of prove the world wrong I guess,” she said.
Esparza has something in common with her opponent when it comes to regaining a title. Zhang is a former UFC strawweight champion who lost the title to Namajunas, and is now attempting to become a two-time world champion herself.
“Going into any title fight it’s definitely like a lot of pressure and a lot of motivation, but I think I definitely had a longer journey to get here. If anything my motivation going into a defense is huge,” said Esparza.
“I’ve never been able to defend my belt and that’s been like a huge unfinished business for me that I’m excited to fight for.”
Watch the entire media day scrum with Carla Esparza above. Esparza take on Weili Zhang in the co-main event of UFC 281 on Saturday night.