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Dern: UFC tried to book Carla Esparza fight but ‘Cookie Monster’ opted to ‘wait for the belt’

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UFC Fight Night: Nunes v Dern Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Streaking UFC submission specialist Mackenzie Dern locks horns with once-beaten strawweight bruiser Marina Rodriguez in the upcoming UFC Vegas 39 five-round main event on Oct. 9 inside APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Dern was first offered a bout against former champion Carla Esparza, but “Cookie Monster” — who is getting the Leon Edwards treatment at strawweight — opted to sit on the sidelines and wait for the winner of Rose Namanujas vs. Zhang Weili.

“They offered Carla Esparza but I think maybe she wanted to wait for the belt,” Dern told Lowkick MMA. “I don’t know if she was on her honeymoon, she had just fought Yan (Xiaonan). She had a great performance, you know, so I don’t think she got injured or anything in that fight but, I don’t know how good her camp was, she was probably tired — just take a little time. I know she felt like she should get the belt, and I agreed. If it wasn’t Zhang Weili, I would think Carla.”

Esparza (18-6), who lost the division strap to Joanna Jedrzejczyk back in early 2015, is now the winner of five straight and currently ranked one spot ahead of Dern (11-1) at No. 3 in the official strawweight rankings.

“As soon as they gave it to Zhang Weili, ‘Hey, let’s me and you do the fight’, but she had some things going on and she wanted to wait for the belt,” Dern continued. “And they offered Marina, so I don’t wanna stay waiting for Carla to wanna fight and waiting to see who wins between Rose and Zhang Weili.“

If Dern is able to submit Rodriguez that would give her five straight wins with four finishes and could be enough to put her ahead of the dormant Esparza when it comes to facing the winner of Namajunas vs. Weili.