Carla Esparza talks ‘Fighters for Freedom’ tour, eyes February Octagon return

UFC strawweight contender Carla Esparza discusses the ongoing “Fighters for Freedom” tour going on in the Middle East. Carla, along with fellow UFC colleagues Alex Hernandez, Louis Smolka, Vinc Pichel, and Bellator’s Shane Krutchen are visiting the brave men and women of our Armed Forces for two weeks to help make life away from home a little easier for those proudly serving our country.

Esparza talks about the experience, what the fighters have been able to do since the tour began, how she got involved, rolling and grappling with the troops, how good of a shooter she is, the fighters doing an attack dog simulation, what she hopes to be able to do while on the tour and more.

“The Cookie Monster” has already taken a lot away from the tour thus and believes that it will just be the tip of the iceberg.

“Honestly, [I will take away] more of an appreciation of what they have to go through out here,” Esparza told “Also the lives and the luxuries that they are giving up for us, it really makes you appreciate what they are doing out here. I think it’s easy to take for granted. It’s kind of like out of sight, out of mind as you’re just home, living in La La Land and doing your thing, and you forget why do you have all that we have? It’s because there’s people out there protecting us, sacrificing and doing all of these things for us.”

In terms of her fighting career that awaits her upon her return home, Esparza has big goals set for 2020. The former UFC strawweight champion is coming off of back-to-back wins — including a recent “Fight of the Night” earning win over Alexa Grasso at UFC Mexico City — and hopes to keep the train moving in the new year as she eyes a return to the Octagon in February.

“As far as who I’m gonna fight next, if you’re not doing this to move closer to gold, or being the best you can, then what are you doing it for,” Esparza said. “Any fight in the top-10 is getting you closer to another shot. I don’t think I’ve ever been out of the conversation, especially when Rose Namajunas got the belt. Obviously, I dominated that [first] fight so everyone was like, ‘rematch, rematch’. Matchups can really mix things up because you might be able to beat one champ but not another. I’m just trying to get that shot. My whole career I’ve never turned down a fight so I’ve just been game for whoever they put in front of me. I want to go back to the drawing board and work on some things, switch up my game because you have to be constantly evolving in this game, or you’re gonna get stuck. You can forget that people are going to figure you out.”

Check out the full interview with Carla Esparza as she checks in from the “Fighters for Freedom” tour in the video above.

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Mike Heck
Mike Heck is the a freelance MMA journalist covering the sport for a number of websites. Specializing in video interviews, Mike interviews everybody from prospects, to title contenders, to world champions, along with other influential personalities in the sport of MMA. Subscribe to his channel at