Claudia Gadelha laughs off Carla Esparza's 'excuses,' says any rematch would have to be in Brazil

Current UFC strawweight contenders Claudia Gadelha and Carla Esparza haven’t ever been exactly the best of friends. But after being accused of greasing by her foe, Gadelha is even more irate than normal at the former champ.

“I think it’s very funny,” Gadelha said of the accusation. “It’s 2018, and MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world. We’d hear about that back in the day, but now there’s a rigorous athletic commission, and from the moment you walk into the arena to the final moment of your fight, there’s an athletic commission official following your every move. Also, before you enter the octagon there’s a final check, in which a second official checks you skin, and if you’re using the mandatory protective gear. So hearing that in the 21st century is kind of funny.”

Gadelha (16-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) and Esparza (13-5 MMA, 4-3 UFC) met earlier this month at UFC 225 in a contest that was several years in the making. The two were linked together a handful of times earlier in their career, including when they were both still competing under the Invicta FC banner, but injuries and other issues always prevented the clash from becoming reality, leading to a bit of a bitter rivalry.

The bout lived up to the hype, with both women going toe-to-toe for the entirety of the 15 minutes. Esparza had particular success on the feet, rocking Gadelha on a few occasions. However, Gadelha continued to push forward, relying on takedowns to change the pace and ultimately walk away with a contentious split-decision result.

After the bout, Esparza claimed Gadelha was a little extra slippery. Gadelha joked that perhaps Esparza simply wasn’t used to a properly moisturized epidermis.

“I think Carla was a little impressed with my smooth Brazilian skin, but you can tell her that in Brazil, women take good care of their skin,” Gadelha said. “Actually, jokes aside, she was making excuses because I beat her using what she said she was he entire life: a wrestler. I dominated her where she thought she was best.

“I knew that I would have to either finish her or knock her out to keep her quiet, because since the first time I broke my nose and had to pull out of the fight against her, she’s the one who’s been talking a lot of crap. Before that fight in Chicago, she tried to act all nice, but if we search tweets from five years ago, we’ll see the amount of crap she said.”

Since the matchup, Gadelha has undergone successful knee surgery to repair ligament damage and a ruptured meniscus she suffered prior to the bout. The damage almost forced Gadelha out of the matchup again, but she said with intense physical therapy at the UFC Performance Institute, she was able to step into the cage on fight night.

“I cried a lot when I got hut in my last week of training in Las Vegas,” Gadelha said. “I couldn’t believe it was happening. I was on my training partner’s back, with a closed triangle, but the arm that was over the neck was on the right side and I had to take her from the left to the right side to be able to safely secure the rear-naked choke. But halfway through, my knee popped very loudly, and it hurt a lot. We stopped practice and I ran to the Performance Institute’s physical therapy, where the physical therapist assured me she would help me get to the fight if we did physical therapy every day. That’s exactly what happened: She cared for my knee every day in Chicago so I could fight and, after the fight, she told me she knew I’d feel it in the fight, and that’s exactly what happened.

“Those who know me know I fight moving forward at all times, but I wasn’t able to stand on my injured knee, I had no mobility on the feet. I fought for three rounds, until the end, with one leg. And after the fight I didn’t say anything, but the UFC doctors saw me screaming in pain when I walked out of the octagon. I suffered a rupture in my meniscus and in the lateral ligament of the knee. We did the MRI on the Monday after the fight and I had surgery two days later. The surgery was successful and soon I’ll be back, healthy, God willing.”

Gadelha is currently ranked No. 4 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA strawweight rankings. A perennial contender, Gadelha suffered two losses to former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk, which made a third meeting a tough ask. But with Rose Namajunas now atop the division, another chance at the belt could lie in the future.

Esparza is hoping for a rematch, but Gadelha would prefer to move forward. However, if the UFC would like to see these two meet again, Gadelha said it’s going to have to be in her native Brazil.

“It isn’t very interesting for me to rematch Carla, but few people know that the UFC has been trying to schedule this fight for years, and she’s always finding obstacles,” Gadelha said. “In fact, we were going to fight in Brazil on May 16, and she said she wouldn’t fight me in Brazil, so I accepted fighting at her home so this fight would finally happen. But I already told the UFC that we can schedule a rematch, only this time she’ll have to come to Brazil.

“I want to get healthy and get back to training well. I’ve been at the top of the division for many years, and I think a title shot can happen at any moment.”

For complete coverage of UFC 225, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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