UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Julianna Peña is impressed with how recently crowned strawweight champion Carla Esparza has handled herself since winning the belt.
The 32-year-old was recently asked by The Schmo for her thoughts on “The Cookie Monster”. Esparza defeated Rose Namajunas at UFC 274 to reclaim the strawweight title she originally won in 2014 at the conclusion of The Ultimate Fighter Season 20.
Peña was quick to praise the 34-year-old for her ability to persevere and get her belt back, as well as how she’s conducted her business as champion so far.
“I love Carla, you know what I mean?” Peña said. “I won The Ultimate Fighter then she won it right after me. I love that she’s Latina and love that she is able to go in there and win her belt back. I thought it was very inspiring and I loved what she did. And do whatever the champ wants, whoever you wanna fight. I like that she’s standing up and says, ‘I call the shots here’.
There’s no date or opponent set for Esparza’s first title defense yet, but many assume former champion Zhang Weili is currently at the front of the line following her highlight-reel knockout of Joanna J?drzejczyk at UFC 275.
Esparza has so-far resisted being pressured into any matchup, and The Schmo mentioned that the 34-year-old recently suggested Marina Rodriguez as a possible challenger instead of Zhang. Peña thinks that Esparza has earned the right to make those calls for herself.
“Of course, everyone’s gonna be barking up at her, but she’s the queen, she decides, and she’s the one who’s gonna be able to decide who her next fight is and who’s deserving or not. And I definitely think that Marina is definitely deserving of that title shot as well. So, whatever Carla wants.”
Peña upset longtime women’s bantamweight queen Amanda Nunes at UFC 269 when she submitted the Brazilian in the second round. The two fighters coached opposite one another on the currently airing Season 30 of The Ultimate Fighter and are set to rematch at UFC 277 in July.
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