UFC Turns the Pressure On… their Champions?

carla-esparzaIn an interview with Portal do Vale Tudo, former UFC Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao opened up about feeling pressured into his title defense against TJ Dillashaw, which he lost via knockout in the fifth and final round of action. Barao admitted that at the time, he was nowhere near ready for another fight. “I was on vacation, I had just fought Faber in February. I was in my hometown when I got the call from Jair Lourenco, telling me the UFC wanted me to fight at UFC 173, because Chris Weidman had gotten hurt and they had to have a title fight. I said I couldn’t fight, but since we always trusted our work, we tried to give our best. Unfortunately, the result was what happened,” said Barao. Chances are that was not the first time the UFC pressured their Champion into a title defense. Certainly, it was not the last. When former UFC Strawweight Champion Carla Esparza spoke to The MMA Hour‘s Ariel Helwani on his podcast last month, she admitted to being forced into her title fight against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, which she lost via TKO in the second round. Feeling the need to put aside rumors that she was “broken” by Jedrzejczyk during the contest, she revealed that she felt broken long before the two ever squared off. “I honestly feel like I was defeated before I even took the fight,” said Esparza. “I actually denied the fight. I said, ‘no, I don’t want this fight, it’s too soon.’ I still had somewhat of an injury. I had just fought four times within a couple of months, so I was not wanting to fight,” added Esparza. The promotion would not take “no” for an answer. Not even from their inaugral Champion, who was nowhere near ready for a training camp, much less her first title defense. “I felt a little rushed. I honestly felt defeated before I took the fight. I didn’t want to fight,” said Esparza. “Cookie Monster” regrets giving into the UFC’s pressure and wishes she had taken time off to recover, physically and mentally. However, she does not lay blame on the promotion, as she feels it was her who ultimately made the call. “It is what it is, I did take it. You gotta take responsibility. I took the fight, it is what it is.”

Written by Gabe Killian

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