On Monday, UFC president Dana White confirmed that Esparza is expected to fight for strawweight gold in her next fight against Namajunas, although no date has been scheduled for the matchup.
“Carla Esparza,” White told ESPN when asked who was next for Namajunas. “100 percent.”
That will certainly come as welcome news to Esparza, who has been calling for a title shot after she earned her fifth straight win back in May with a dominant second round finish over Yan Xiaonan.
Of course, Esparza also defeated Namajunas in their first meeting back in 2014 when she wrapped up a third-round rear-naked choke submission to become the first ever UFC champion at 115 pounds.
Since that time, Esparza has remained one of the top strawweights in the world but her recent five-fight win streak has finally put her back in line for a title fight opportunity.
While Esparza was disappointed that she didn’t already get a shot at the belt, she expected to be next in line after Namajunas clashed with Zhang Weili in a rematch back in November.
“It’s obviously a huge opportunity that not only do I want but I felt that I deserved,” Esparza told MMA Fighting in October. “I was bummed but just reflecting back, can’t really control what decision [the UFC] made, the best decision for the company. I’m sure they made that for the company’s best interests.
“I’m just hoping that I get the next one and I’ll sit and wait for so long and they pull something like this again. That would honestly be very upsetting.”
It appears that Esparza won’t have to get upset now that White has officially declared her as the next person in line to challenge for the title.