After a second victory on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series this past summer, Jordan Espinosa finally earned his UFC contract. The Luttrell/Yee fighter will get to make his octagon debut at UFC on ESPN+ 6 against Eric Shelton.
Originally, Espinosa was expected to make his promotional debut at UFC Fight Night 139, the promotion’s 25th anniversary event, but shortly after accepting the fight with Mark de la Rosa, “Chino”was injured in training.
“It sucked. I got the call, I think it was two weeks, two and half weeks before I was supposed to fight. I hurt myself, what 10 days out from the fight. That was a bummer and it was supposed to be two days after my birthday. It was going to be in Denver, Colorado, which would have been convenient in every way. I had a bunch of family, had a bunch of friends going. And yeah, sometimes you get hurt in this sport; and just at the wrong time.”
The injury threw a big wrench in his plans.
“I generally don’t like taking lots of time off. When I would have fought in November, that’s around the timetable or even a bit longer then I like to take in between fights, and it set me back another four months to this fight in March. Financially it’s been rough. It took me some time to recover from that injury, about eight-weeks, that was rough. It was a shitty situation, but I’m excited this one’s finally going to happen. Fingers crossed nothing happens in the next two-weeks.”
Now that Espinosa has a fight booked he can see his year taking shape. He meets Eric Shelton at UFC on ESPN+ 6 on March 23.
“I’m super excited. I just want to hurry up and get my debut over with. I want to hurry up and get another fight. I don’t plan on taking a lot of time off after this fight. I really want to at least have three or four fights this year, stay busy, get into kind of a rhythm, and have some momentum. I don’t really know what’s going on with the Flyweight division yet, but this fight is at flyweight. I’m looking to rally up some wins.”
As for how the fate of the men’s 125 lbs. division, Espinosa is still uncertain.
“It still kind of looks like they’re going to get rid of it, but since they haven’t officially announced anything, they’re still booking flyweight fights. I mean I’m OK with that, I’m undefeated at flyweight. I’ve fought most of my career at flyweight, but I was actually about a week before I got this fight, I was preparing and kind of had accepted the fact that alright, well I’m probably going to be moving to 135 (bantamweight). Then a week passed, and my manager called me, he’s like hey guess what we got an offer at Flyweight. I was like that’s fine, I have plenty of notice, so cutting down wouldn’t be a problem. They’re offering another well-known flyweight and I thought it be a good test for me.”
Anxious for a fight, Espinosa had already been training like he had a fight prior to receiving the call for this match-up.
“I was already training, hoping to get a short notice fight probably at 35’s (Bantamweight). I was training four to six weeks before I got the call anyway. Camp’s been great. I’m in good shape. I was already in good shape when I got the call, so now it’s more just the anticipation. I want to hurry up and be in Nashville. I want to hurry up and make that walk and I want to hurry up and get my first UFC win.”
“I’m excited. I want to be the ball rolling. I want to be done with, the kind of like the financial and regional struggles of being an up-and-coming fighter, which I’ve been for ten-years now. I don’t necessarily consider myself a UFC fighter, because I haven’t had a UFC fight yet. I’ve been tested by USADA like five times, but I haven’t had my first UFC fight. Then once I have that, I think then I can even say to myself that yeah, I’m a UFC fighter.”
Many seasoned fighters have succumbed to octagon jitters in their debut, but in his 10 years of fighting Espinosa believes he’s seen enough to be ready to handle the moment.
“I’ve heard of that stuff and there’s nothing specifically I’ve done to prepare myself, but honestly I don’t really want to psych myself out. This will be my 19th pro fight. I think I’ve had enough experience to where I know how to at least keep composure within myself and not focus my energy so much outside of what’s going on; the stage, my environment. Then kind of focus on the task at hand. This is something I been doing for ten years. I train every single day and it’s another fight.”
As for knowing about his opponent Espinosa says “I’ve seen every single one of his UFC fights and his fights on The Ultimate Fighter, so I’ve watching him I guess for, what The Ultimate Fighter, he was on, was like three or four years ago. He’s solid, well-rounded. He’s two and three in the UFC, but two of those have been by split decision. He could very easily be four and one in the UFC. I don’t think he’s a lesser opponent, because he has a under five hundred UFC record. I’m expecting a great fight. I now he’s down at American Top Team, so he’s training with good guys. I’m expecting a fun fight. I think our styles are relatively similar. We’re both well-rounded. I just think I’ll have the speed advantage, which generally he (Eric Shelton) has in his fights.”
Both men have been the aggressor and play the counter striker in previous fights.
“We’ll both probably have to feel it out at the beginning, but in general he doesn’t do well on his back foot, neither do I. The fights he’s (Eric Shelton) lost, Alex Perez was able to control him on the ground for a bit. He has a nice cross, he can hit take downs, some double legs, but like I said I’ll have the speed advantage on the feet. A lot of the guys he’s fought don’t move nearly as much or as well as I do.”