Claudia Gadelha focuses on Invicta champ Carla Esparza, not potential UFC future
By Dann Stupp and Christian Stein December 4, 2013 9:30 am
claudia-gadelha-invicta-fc-6Claudia Gadelha faces one of the world’s other top strawweights, champion Carla Esparza, on Saturday at Invicta FC 7. In a division that’ll soon be in the UFC, Gadelha knows the 115-pound title fight could be a showcase. She just prefers to ignore that fact.
Gadelha (11-0) looks to dethrone Esparza (9-2), whom she was slated to fight in early 2013 before an accidental head-butt and broken nose sidelined her. During Gadelha’s recovery and a few subsequent wins, the stakes for the latest Gadelha vs. Esparza booking have been raised significantly.
UFC President Dana White recently said the organization plans to add a 115-pound women’s division, though a time table hasn’t been set. Although Gadelha would love to join Nova Uniao training partners and UFC champs Jose Aldo and Renan Barao on the roster, she knows she can’t focus on it.
“I already discussed the possibility with coach (Andre) Pederneiras,” she told MMAjunkie. “But I’m not worried about it. I have another task in front of me. I don’t need any extra pressure that could make me lose focus. I’ll think about it after I fight for the belt.”
In the latest Unified Women’s MMA Rankings, Gadelha is ranked No. 3 at strawweight. Her opponent, Esparza, is ranked No. 2. The winner of Saturday’s bout, which airs on pay-per-view from Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City in Missouri, could be one of the most marketable 115-pounders in the sport.
Sure, it brings some pressure, but Gadelha said Nova Uniao fighters wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I always train with Jose Aldo and Renan Barao, and all told, there are 13 Nova Uniao athletes in the UFC,” she said. “In that environment, it’s hard to set your goals low. You see the other athletes achieve success, and you want that for yourself. Since after my injury, I refocused myself, and I’m glad to have this opportunity to fight for the belt again, represent Brazil, and hopefully make my dream come true, especially since I fight on my 25th birthday.”
In fact, her birthday is an important thing to keep in mind. Gadelha has long explained that she plans to fight until she’s 30, and then she plans to move into a legal career and leave fighting behind. She has five years left to achieve her lofty goals, and it all starts with an Invicta FC title.
She’ll have her hands full on Saturday when she meets Esparza, a longtime wrestler with one of MMA’s better ground games. However, the jiu-jitsu-oriented Gadelha expects the fight to play out standing since she predicts Esparza won’t take risks on the ground.
“I expect that, as a wrestler, she has good submission defense,” Gadelha said. “But my ground game is something different. I’m a three-time world jiu-jitsu champion, and seven times the champion in Brazil. If she tries to take me down, it will be dangerous for her. My ground game is better.
“Carla lost to Jessica Aguilar, whom I’ve beaten in both gi and no-gi submission grappling at NAGA in Dallas. I don’t see much danger from her on the ground. I think the fight will be decided on the feet.”Pages: