Unfortunately for Carla Esparza, she’ll never get redemption against Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
At UFC 275 earlier this month (June 11, 2022), the legendary Polish striker called it a career after a tough second round knockout loss (watch highlights) to Zhang Weili in a rematch of their epic instant classic in March 2020 (watch highlights). Going into the bout, UFC President, Dana White, declared that the winner was next in line for the champion, Esparza.
“I don’t think I was really that surprised,” Esparza told MMA Junkie of Jedrzejczyk’s retirement. “If someone’s gonna sit out for two years and be on somewhat of a losing streak, although she has fought the highest competition, I think for her, just judging on what I always heard her say, she wants to be the best, she wants to be a champion. With losing that fight, I think it was gonna be a far road back, and I can see why she walked away from it.”
Jedrzejczyk was the first — and only — to challenge Esparza during her first title run in early 2015. Fresh off winning the inaugural title through The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20, Esparza met the buzzsaw that was Jedrzejczyk, dropping the title via a second round technical knockout in one of the most lopsided championship showings in mixed martial arts (MMA) history.
Since then, the two clearly went in opposite directions with Esparza once again champion and Jedrzejczyk departing on the heels of two consecutive Zhang defeats.
“There’s always a disappointment,” Esparza said of not getting to redeem her Jedrzejczyk loss. “But I mean, doing it this long, so many people that I’ve fought have stepped away from the sport. It just kind of comes with being in the sport this many years. I’ve kind of accepted you’re not always gonna get that rematch chance. I would’ve loved to have had that opportunity because I feel that I’ve grown so much as a fighter. But I’m happy for her and for her journey from here on out.”