On Saturday, July 28, strawweight Carla Esparza (6-2) will make her debut with the all-women's MMA organization Invicta Fighting Championships. I caught up with Esparza recently, and here is what she had to say about the reason she fights, her goals as an athlete, and her upcoming match-up with Sarah Schneider (6-5):
What have you focused on during your training camp for this fight?
I focus on everything. Everyone has a little bit of a different striking style, different grappling style. So I didn't try to pinpoint all my training to mesh well with hers [Sarah Schneider], but I've been training wrestling, jiu-jitsu, and striking because you never know what's going to happen.
How much of the training camp is devoted to preparing for your opponent as opposed to getting prepared overall?
You know, I usually try to focus it quite a bit. But you never know, things happen. I could have a last-minute switch-out, so, like I said, it's pretty much training for any fight as I'm training all aspects of the game. Because I never know if I'm going to end up on my back, I never know if I'm going to be on mount, I never know if I'm going to take someone down and spend the whole time striking. I just never know what's going to happen in a fight, so I try to be prepared for anything.
Your opponent, Sarah Schneider, has faced some stiff competition throughout her career. Her record doesn't really indicate the quality of opponents that she's faced. What problems does she present that you have to get past?
She's definitely an unorthodox fighter. She does more of a counterstriking style, like backing up and striking. She does rubber guard. So it's definitely something that I haven't seen in a fight before. But every fight is different, every opponent's going to be different. I just try to focus on training for her style and just show her what I can do.
Is there something that Sarah presents to you in the fight that could cause you some problems?
For the most part, I think- you know, I've already said that she has an unorthodox style that you won't see very often. So I think my top game is very defensive and it's very aggressive. Obviously, she finished her last opponent, who is a tough fighter, and she finished her in the first round, so she has a good submission game. But I'm working very hard. I know that's her game, and I'm not going to let that happen.
What are your goals for this fight?
My goals are to show how well-rounded I am. I've shown that I can strike and get on the ground to use my ground-and-pound. It would be nice to finish in a different fashion than what I've finished before. I just want to show the world that I've been improving and that I'm going to keep improving. And I think I've done that in every single fight. I think I've gotten better and that I haven't stopped getting better.
Are you going to push the fight or are you going to force Schneider to come to you?
You know, I always play it fight by fight. Like I said, if she comes out with something different than what I'm used to seeing, then things switch. I try not to focus too much in my head about what I'm going to do because if your opponent does something different, then your game plan is in the toilet. I usually just try to keep an open mind and be ready for anything.
What does is it mean to you as a fighter and a woman to take part in this second Invicta FC card?
It just means progress to me. It means that we've been getting bigger, and we're going to keep getting bigger. And that we're going to be in the spotlight. I love it; this is what I've always wanted. I've always wanted the sport to grow and be successful, and that's what they are doing with this organization. I think it's just great.
Is there pressure on the women who are competing at Invicta 2 to put on a good show?
For me personally, whenever I've watched women fight, it's always - for the majority of it - it's always been women in there and giving everything they have for exciting fights. So, I don't know if it's really as much pressure as it is the girls just doing what they've been doing. I think that most of the time they've been putting on good shows.
How long do you see yourself competing in MMA?
There's no set number [of years] for me. It's however long it makes sense for me. I think you just come to a point in your sports career where you just feel like you've done enough - like, you're done. That's how I felt with wrestling. I did what I wanted to do, I felt good about where I finished. And now for MMA, it's going to be the same thing. It could be two years or it could be 10 years. That's a big step for me.
What are you looking for after this fight? What are your goals for the future?
Usually before my fight, I try to focus on that specific fight, but obviously, I want to be number one in the world, I want to be a champion. That's always the goal, and I'm working towards that.
Why do you compete in MMA? Why is this important to you?
For me, it's just my passion. It's something that I enjoy doing. I love the thrill of being in the cage. It's the feeling that you can't really get doing anything else. I just love it.
Source: Personal Interview
- Sports & Recreation
- Sarah Schneider