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Carla Esparza frustrated with being overlooked by Reebok

UFC Star Carla Esparza has had an action packed year. Following a stint on the Ultimate Fighter, Esparza became the UFC's inaugural strawweight champion, but regardless of her success in the cage Esparza still feels as though she has been overlooked by potential sponsors.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Carla Esparza's dreams came true when she became the UFC's inaugural strawweight champion, but since that night in December things haven't gone as she imagined they would.

On Tuesday, news emerged that Reebok had signed Paige VanZant to an exclusive sponsorship deal. While Esparza was very happy for her fellow female fighter it was also a vivid reminder of the lack of endorsement opportunities she has received since becoming a champion.

In an interview with MMAJunkie.com, Esparza spoke of her disappointment about being overlooked.

"If you are asking me if I feel a little overlooked by the ‘UFC machine' while Paige seemingly is getting a lot of play, then I would be lying if I said that thought didn't cross my mind. I feel so lucky to have been able to accomplish such amazing things in my WMMA career, but even through all of my accomplishments, and the extremely hard road it took to get them, I still feel as if I am constantly being overlooked."

While Reebok is not under no obligation to sign UFC champions to exclusive deals, it does seem like a kick in the teeth for the best fighters in the world to be overlooked on the basis of perceived marketability.

Reebok has been aggressive in its signing of up-and-comers thus far, Conor McGregor signed with the apparel giant in January and with the latest signing of VanZant it is quite clear to see the type of fighter that Reebok has their hearts set on.

Esparza, however, is taking all of her disappointments in her stride and realizes that primarily it is a business and VanZant can't be held responsible for the champion being overlooked.

"I get that its a business and they have their reasons, so I just have to keep doing what I do, and maybe I will feel that recognition soon. Maybe I won’t. Maybe it’s just me, and maybe it’s just what I need to keep my fire. I don’t know yet.

Carla Esparza (10-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) makes her first title defense against Joanna Jedrzejczyk (8-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) at UFC 185 and will have an opportunity to let her fighting skills win over potential sponsors.

"I am optimistic that things will get better, but in the end I am here to fight and do my best to stay No. 1. I have a fight to focus on right now, so that is where my focus will lie. I am very happy for all of the fighters, including Paige."