After Rose Namajunas retained her strawweight title at UFC 268, Carla Esparza, the division’s inaugural champion, has revealed her intentions to win the belt back.
Namajunas was on the right side of a split decision against Zhang Weili on Saturday night –– defeating the Chinese fighter for the second time this year.
And Esparza took to social media to congratulate the American-Lithuanian on her victory. Speaking on Instagram, she wrote: “Congratulations Rose Namajunas on a fantastic victory! Inspiring to so many and I am truly happy for you. Fate had us cross paths when we created this division and I’m proud that seven years later we are both still here at the top of it.”
Esparza also stressed that she wasn’t ‘calling out’ Namajunas, but did want to challenge the reigning champion again, having beaten her in the Ultimate Fighter Finale back in 2014.
“This is not a call out or anything disrespectful,” Esparza said. “This is genuine respect. You deserve time to celebrate and enjoy this accomplishment. It will be an honour to run this back when you are ready.”
A rematch between the pair has seemingly been on the cards for some time. Esparza is on a run of five straight wins and is second in UFC’s strawweight rankings.
Meanwhile, Namajunas has won her last three fights and has already beaten both Zhang and Jessica Andrade.
However, UFC president Dana White has said the promotion has “an option” when it comes to another potential strawweight contender.
While Andrade lost to Namajanuas back in 2020, she had previously defeated the 29-year-old the year before and a trilogy fight may beckon.
The Brazilian is currently competing at flyweight but lost to champion Valentina Shevchenko back in April.
It means a return to strawweight looks increasingly likely for Andrade, and she may well be preferred to Esparza for a title shot.
Either way, the women’s strawweight division looks to be as competitive as ever and Namajunas looks to have a number of viable opponents.