For Carla Esparza, Friday night’s main event victory over Rose Namajunas was the culmination in a journey to the top.
Esparza became the first-ever UFC strawweight champion by finishing Namajunas, cementing her claim to being the best 115-pound fighter in the world. She had previously won the Invicta FC title, vacating it to join the UFC.
“It feels like a dream,” said Esparza, during the FOX Sports 1 post-fight show. “I never thought this moment was going to come.
“I really wanted to show the world I’m an entertaining fighter. I’m a mixed martial artist and I have all kinds of weapons.”
Esparza (10-2) has now won five straight since a 2011 split decision loss to current WSOF champion Jessica Aguilar. That inclues victories over fellow TUF 20 competitors Bec Rawlings and Felice Herrig. Her only other career defeat was to the highly-regarded Megumi Fuijii in 2010.
During her run on TUF, Esparza defeated Jessica Penne, Tecia Torres and Angela Hill.
“It was a lot of ups and downs (on the reality series),” she said. “The show was tough, the camp was tough and this title fight was tough.
“But I came home with the gold, so that was all that matters.”