It’s a dream come true for Carla Esparza, one of TUF 20’s contestants who will compete for the opportunity to become UFC’s first strawweight champion in 2014.
UFC president Dana White announced last week on a conference call that Invicta FC has assigned the contracts of eleven 115-pounders to be part of the show, and it was a big surprise for the Esparza, who won the Invicta FC strawweight title back in January.
"I kind of found out like everybody else, I found out on Twitter," Esparza said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. "I got a text ‘go check your Twitter,’ and it was blowing up. I was very excited.
"I got a word that I was going to the UFC but I had no idea that there was going a show. That was a bit shock to me. I was super surprised because they have never done a show like this before."
Dana White personally called Esparza on Tuesday, the day before the conference call, to reveal the news, but kept the TUF season as a secret.
"Dana called me at the gym, right after I finished training, and I was like ‘who is this? Is this Dana White?’," she said. "He told me about it and it was great news. But the TUF season definitely was a shocker to me."
Esparza is one of the favorites to go to the finals, but the now former Invicta champion is not underestimating anyone. And she's not bothered with the fact that she has to go through a TUF season to claim another title.
"Either is fine for me," she said. "I’m totally happy to go in there and fight for the belt. I still think I’m going to be champion. That’s a goal. They are all going to be tough fights and I’m not underestimating anybody. I’m not going in there cocky thinking I’m the No. 1 pick in the house because Shayna Baszler was and it didn’t work out too well for her.
"I’m not going to have my teammates and my coaches, who are always guiding me, so it’s going to be hard," she continued. "But as far as the weight cut goes, it’s going to be great for people like me who don’t cut much weight. I diet down and only cut five pounds or less, so that’s going to be an advantage for me."
There’s no word yet on possible coaches and the format of the show, and Esparza sees undefeated Claudia Gadelha as the other favorite to go to the finale.
"The format is a little bit different already, so I wouldn’t be opposed to things being switched up or the same," she said. "I’m just up for whatever.
"I think there are a lot of tough women in the house. I wouldn’t be surprised if I met Claudia in the finals, or Joanne Caldwerood, or even Tecia (Torres). And I’m not taking away Felice (Herrig) being in the finals, but that’s the last fight I want."
But don’t make her sleep in the same room of Gadelha, though.
"I would not be able to sleep, I would be so irritated," she said with a laugh. "Please, I hope that doesn’t happen."