Fighting Words: Marina Rodriguez Ready For The Ultimate Challenge In Carla Esparza

Finally cracking the top ten of the UFC’s strawweight rankings, Marina Rodriguez’s journey since her MMA debut in 2015 can reach superstar status this weekend.

Rodriguez (12-0-2) is set to face off on July 25 against Carla Esparza at UFC Fight Island 3 in Abu Dhabi. When it comes to facing a former champion in Esparza (16-6), the 33-year-old is excited at the idea of it.

“Carla Esparza is very experienced,” Rodriguez stated to MMA Junkie. “I’m sure I wasn’t even training when she had her first professional bout. It’s very tough. She’s a former UFC champion. I believe that she will look to grapple me, as did all my UFC opponents to date. If she, however, chooses to strike with me, the fans will be the real winners. It would be electrifying. But we know that’s not her game. She’ll look to take me down. And we’re training for that since my first fight in the UFC.”

Making her UFC debut during Dana White’s Contender Series in April 2018, Rodriguez ended up fighting to a draw against Randa Markos in September of that year. She would then beat strawweight regulars Jessica Aguilar and Tecia Torres before finishing her 2019 against Cynthia Calvillo. Calvillo was supposed to face Claudia Gadelha but the contender was injured. Rodriguez impressed and fought to another draw.

Esparza is a true pioneer for women’s MMA. She debuted in 2010 and fought for Bellator, XFC, and Invicta, becoming the first Invicta Strawweight Champion. “Cookie Monster” would then head to the UFC where she became the first UFC Strawweight Champion. Joanna Jedrzejczyk beat her for the title in her next fight at UFC 185, and she has since gone 6-3. Esparza is currently on a three-fight win streak, last beating Michelle Waterson at UFC 249 in May.

Ranked seventh in the UFC’s strawweight rankings, a win by Esparza can bring her closer to another title fight. Rodriguez is preparing for her future as a potential contender, but for now, will focus on the task at hand.

“All focus is on Esparza only,” Rodriguez went on to say. “With a win, I expect to climb up the rankings. But I don’t feel it’s my place to call out my next opponents. The UFC had given me great opportunities. I trust their choices. I’ll do whatever the boss thinks is best. I’ll keep training, staying ready to be called up again. Calling people out is for people who want to win in the media. I’d rather have concrete results in the octagon.”

The main event of UFC Fight Island 3 will be Robert Whittaker v. Darren Till.

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