A short notice opportunity to headline Fury Pro Grappling 3 didn’t end the way Carla Esparza had hoped.
The former UFC strawweight champion replaced Rose Namajunas in the main event against grappling star Danielle Kelly but the bout was stopped after Esparza suffered a nasty cut over her eye.
The gash was opened after Esparza was already on top of Kelly and defending her position when she lifted up the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and brought her back down to the canvas with a slam. The impact brought Esparza’s head crashing into Kelly, which forced the referee to pause the action.
While Kelly had noticeable swelling over her eye, Esparza took the brunt of the damage with a really nasty cut opened over her eye. Esparza posted a photo after the match that showed the severity of the cut, which is what ultimately stopped the bout.
“Sorry guys, accidental head butt on a slam led to a cut and a stop in the match,” Esparza wrote. “In good spirits! Just gotta get a couple stitches.”
Kelly was declared the winner by doctor’s stoppage and she addressed the situation afterwards on her own social media accounts along with a slow motion video that showed the head butt that ended the match.
“So I just want to say I wish Carla Esparza a speedy recovery,” Kelly wrote. “Not me or her were expecting that and maybe a rematch in the future if it doesn’t get between schedules.
“Honestly I was confused and a lot of adrenaline was going through me. I was just really excited to be a part of a huge event with everyone watching. I’m also just nerding out this mark on my face.”
Kelly has become one of the most talked about athletes in the grappling circuit in recent years and she also holds submission wins over UFC veterans Roxanne Modafferi and Cynthia Calvillo in past matches.
It remains to be seen if Kelly might try to face Esparza again or perhaps attempt to see if Namajunas might want to challenge her after the reigning UFC strawweight champion was forced out of the event due to COVID-19 protocols.
As far as her fighting career goes, Esparza is actually expected to face Namajunas in a rematch with the UFC strawweight title on the line in early 2022.