clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Claudia Gadelha returns from self-imposed layoff in a fight that is five years in the making

Claudia Gadelha looks for her fifth UFC win as she faces longtime rival Carla Esparza.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Claudia Gadelha suffered her third MMA loss last September, and decided it was time to take a break.

Close to celebrating the 10-year anniversary of her professional debut, Gadelha, who entered rings and cages 18 times since becoming a professional fighter in 2008, realized that she was demanding a lot from her body.

One of the best strawweights in the world, “Claudinha” also wanted to give back to her parents, Luis Carlos and Ivaneide, with an unforgettable trip. For a two-month vacation, they visited Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, New York, New Jersey, Albuquerque and Las Vegas.

”It was great, one of the best trips of my life,” Gadelha told MMA Fighting. “I left Mossoro when I was really young and conquered the world. My parents never had the opportunity to travel to anywhere, always worked hard to survive, never done anything different.

”Their youngest daughter traveled around the world and conquered many things, and being able to travel with them and show them the world was amazing. I was happy to hold my mother’s hand and show her how big the world is, show her different things. That made me really happy, and that’s something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

Luis Carlos and Ivaneide returned to Natal when Gadelha started to prepare for her UFC 225 bout with her longtime rival Carla Esparza, scheduled for Saturday night in Chicago, but “Claudinha” wants to her parents living next to her in the United States one day.

”I think it will be good for them,” Gadelha said. “My parents live in Natal and don’t even leave the building because they are too afraid of getting robbed. I want to see them walking on the streets, taking their phones out of their pockets, living the life they deserve.”

The long break from fighting wasn’t as long as she initially hoped, though.

”I wanted to take a time off, but it only lasted two months. I was getting crazy after 60 days with no training, so I came back,” Gadelha said with a laugh. “Of course that it wasn’t as hard, but I came back quickly. I wanted to stay six months without thinking about MMA because I fought three times in 10 months.

”I switched teams, started to get too excited with everything I learned and wanted to fight, and the loss [to Jessica Andrade] showed it shouldn’t be like that. That’s why I say that a loss teaches you a lot. I believe that if I had won that fight I would have asked for another one and my body wouldn’t take it.”

After a two-month camp for UFC 225, which included a trip to Las Vegas to train at the UFC Performance Institute, all Gadelha thinks about is Esparza and a fight that is five years in the making.

The strawweight talents were originally supposed to meet at Invicta FC 4 in 2013, but the Brazilian pulled out with a broken nose. Eleven months later, with Esparza as the promotion’s 115-pound champion, Gadelha was once again forced to withdraw after falling ill after the weigh-ins.

”I’ve waited for a long time for this fight to happen but we’re finally here,” Gadelha said. “It will happen this time.”

Gadelha felt obligated to make this fight possible one day, and never thought she would end her career without being given the chance to face Esparza.

”I knew it would happen,” Gadelha said. “She wouldn’t agree to it and I didn’t know what else to do. I really needed this fight to happen because of what happened in the past. I don’t think it’s my fault because I got injured, but I had to pull out of the fight, not her, so I felt I was responsible for giving this fight for the fans and for us.

”I think she kind of needed to have her confidence back to be able to accept this fight,” she continued. “She said she needed a tune-up fight, an easier fight first, because she was coming off an injury, so I let her (do it) and waited as long as she needed to accept this fight and sign the contract.”

They both joined the UFC shortly after that cancelled fight in Invicta FC 7, and Gadelha thinks she has evolved more than her rival. Esparza won the UFC belt after winning The Ultimate Fighter in 2014, but lost to Joanna Jędrzejczyk in her first title defense. “The Cookie Monster” is 4-2 in the UFC, while Gadelha holds a 4-3 record in the Octagon.

”Carla is a good wrestler, but that’s all she does. She focuses on wrestling,” Gadelha said. “I don’t believe she will do a different game against me. She’s saying she has added new tools to her game, but I don’t believe that someone can evolve so much and change your game in four months. Her game should be the same.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting