Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza recently spoke to MMA Fighting on a variety of topics including her scheduled fight being cancelled, financial concerns, and her love for the game.
Esparza (15-6) was scheduled to take on Michelle Waterson (17-7) in an important strawweight bout on April 11 at UFC Portland, however, the card was among several cancellations and postponements due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“You hope in your carer that fights never get cancelled, for whatever reason. Early on, you hope the show doesn’t get cancelled. Later on, you always hope you never get injured or nothing happens like your opponent gets injured,” Esparza told MMA Fighting on Tuesday.
Acknowledging the current landscape of things, she added, “But this is unprecedented and it’s been crazy. Because every single day, every few hours, it was something new. AS a fighter, you kept holding out hope that Dana [White] was going above and beyond trying to make it still happen. Things were constantly changing.”
The “Cookie Monster” echoes the thoughts of fighters and fans alike– “I was still holding out hope that it was a month out to my fight and maybe all of this in the world would be figured out by then. But it’s just been getting worse day by day.”
Among the cancellations, UFC president Dana White has been adamant bout keeping the show running to the best of his ability. As of this writing, he is still attempting to put together a UFC 249 pay-per-view card.
The former champ, who currently rides a two-fight sin streak, is appreciative of White doing all he can to keep the events going.
“I love what Dana’s been doing. I actually sent him a message of appreciation just letting him know that I super appreciate you’re trying to do anything and everything to make these fights happen. I told him I’m staying ready and whatever happens, happens.”
Esparza also opened up to MMA Fighting on the financial aspect of not fighting.
“It’s definitely hard but I’ve been in this sport a long time. You know that injuries can happen anytime, so I try to be prepared to not work for a year at all times. I do king do plan ahead for rainy days at all times.”
Luckily, her proactive actions are aiding her in this time.
“It’s a little bit tight right now because I just bought a home. I’ve actually paid my mortgage ahead for like six months so I’m not stressing that much right now but the heat’s going to start coming on as months and months go y not making any money, especially since I was expecting a paycheck in two weeks’ time.”
“I don’t think anybody can really plan for this,” she added. “There’s some people who live week to week, paycheck to paycheck and for us on average we’re going at least three to four months without a paycheck.”
In regards to her now-cancelled fight with “The Karate Hottie,” Esparza says, “I was supposed to fight in two weeks so I’ve already gone a few months without getting paid. It’s stressful. It’s like how much longer am I going to be out without seeing a dime coming in? That’s defintiley super stressful and it’s really hard.”
Financial implications aside, the MMA veteran is still fighting simply because it is what she loves to do.
“This is not just another game of 40 games of whatever. This is our one focus. At this level, you’re fighting on average two to three times per year max per fighter, some not even that much.”
“so when you have this fight and this opponent for so long and you’re focused on that and you don’t get to do that. That’s why fighters fight through injuries.”
Esparza shares some insight on the mind of a fighter.
“I would say 90 to 95 percent of the time, fighters are going into fights with some type of injury or something that happens in their camps that’s not ideal but you’re not going to say no because of something like that. This is something you’ve trained so hard for, for so long.”
“If all of us wanted to just make money, we wouldn’t be putting our health and our bodies through everything we put them through to do this. I would go be an accountant or something.”
“I do this because I love fighting. I could probably say the same thing for the rest of the roster. We do this because we love to fight.”
When can we expect to see Esparza back in the Octagon? Well that part is out of her control but if it were up to her, she’d be ready tomorrow.
“If they told me they had a fight for me tomorrow, I’d say yes. I’m willing and ready for anything that they bring along. Even with opponent changes, I’ve never said no to an opponent.”
“I’d like to keep the same fight we had planned because that’s what I’ve been training for, but I’m ready for any opponent or any date.”
Source: Damon Martin, MMA Fighting