Gadelha and Esparza were set to meet for the Invicta FC strawweight championship last December, but the Brazilian was forced out of the bout at the day of the fight due to a bacterial infection. Weeks later, the UFC announced the signing of 11 strawweights for a TUF season to crown the first UFC 115-pound champ, and their names were on the list.
Gadelha is thrilled with the opportunity of being part of the UFC, but she isn't so happy with the obligation to live under the same roof of her rival.
"I don’t even want to look at her face all the time, but I will have to," Gadelha told MMAFighting.com. "But I’ll be classy and be patient so nothing happens inside the house. I’m a professional and I want to do the way it’s supposed to happen."
According to "Claudinha", her rivalry with the "Cookie Monster" started after she pulled out of the Invicta FC 7 card.
"After the Invicta FC 7 weigh-ins, I was rushed from the hotel to the hospital with high fever (105.8 degrees) and blood pressure at 70/20," she said. "I was feeling cold, in pain, and vomiting a lot. At the hospital, they did all the exams and diagnosed an intestinal infection because of something I ate during the travel to the U.S. The doctor only released me from the hospital on fight night, so they called the promotion and told them I wouldn’t be able to fight.
"One week later, Carla was posting on a social media that I should move up (to flyweight division), that I was sick because of the weight cut. As far I know she’s not a doctor and the hospital didn’t say I was sick because of the weight cut. She also said that Nova Uniao fighters bet on who will lose more weight, which isn’t true. Nova Uniao is one of the most reliable teams in the world, and that’s proven with the quality of the fighters in the best events.
"She even said that Jose Aldo was hospitalized due to weight-cutting issues. Who is she to talk about Nova Uniao or Jose Aldo? She needs to learn to respect others and a champion like Aldo. That pissed me off."
TUF 20 cast also includes Alex Chambers, Felice Herrig, Bec Hyatt, Emily Kagan, Julianna Lima, Rose Namajunas, Tecia Torres, Paige Van Zandt and Joanne Calderwood, but Gadelha and Esparza will likely be the biggest rivalry in the house – inside and outside the cage.
"I already expected that could happen because I heard some rumors two or three before that it would happen, and I really want this fight," Gadelha said. "I want to fight her, and I don’t care If it’s for a title or not. A lot of people want to see this fight, so maybe it happens really soon."
Being in front of the cameras is not something Gadelha enjoys, but she has had some experience in the past that will probably make it more comfortable.
"I was in a reality show in Canada in 2011, so I’m familiar with the cameras," she said, "but I don’t like being watched (laughs)."
To get ready for the TUF season and a future shot at the UFC title, Gadelha moved to the United States for over a month to train at American Kickboxing Academy, learning wrestling with Daniel Cormier and jiu-jitsu with Leandro Vieira.
"I’m in the US, learning new boxing and wrestling techniques, and will be back to Rio de Janeiro next month to sit with my coaches and decided what we're going to do," she said.
One of the biggest strawweights in the TUF 20 cast, Gadelha will need to change her diet to avoid some weight-cutting issues if she needs to fight three or four times inside the house.
"We will have to do a different work this time," she said. "I will have to keep my weight low and don’t gain much weight (after the weigh-ins), but I won’t believe it changes much."
The UFC is yet to announce the coaches for the next season of the Ultimate Fighter, and Gadelha would want to have UFC champion Demetrious Johnson as her coach.
"I would love to have the flyweight champion as a mentor because I admire him a lot as an athlete," Gadelha said. "He’s a division above us, and he’s really fast. I believe it would be great to have him as coach."