At UFC 268 this past weekend Rose Namajunas beat Zhang Weili by a razor thin split decision to retain her UFC strawweight title. Namajunas had won that belt from Zhang—by TKO—when the pair first met back in April.
Before Zhang was called upon to receive an immediate rematch with Namajunas, many felt that another former champion—and former opponent of ‘Thug Rose’—deserved a crack at the title.
Carla Esparza, who beat Namajunas in 2014 to become the UFC’s first ever 115 lb champ, has won five straight fights. During that run she has beaten Michelle Waterson, Marina Rodriguez and, most recently, Yan Xiaonan (by TKO).
With Namajunas now 2-0 versus Zhang and Esparza sitting second in the rankings, Namajunas vs. Esparza 2 makes a lot of sense. However, UFC President Dana White seems to have other things on his mind.
When asked at the post-fight press conference about the possibility that Esparza is next woman up for Namajunas, White demurred.
“We have an option,” he said (ht MMA Fighting). “You don’t sit around and wait for fights, it’s a really bad idea.”
‘Sitting around and waiting for fights’ likely refers to Esparza turning down a fight with Mackenzie Dern in hopes she had done enough to earn the winner of Namajunas vs. Zhang 2.
White was tight-lipped about his so-called option. Outside of Zhang and Esparza, the strawweight rankings top five also includes Marina Rodriguez, Yan Xiaonan and Mackenzie Dern. Rodriguez is the only one of those fighters coming off a win (a decision over Dern in October).