On just three days’ notice, former two-time All-American wrestler Carla Esparza will step in to face Megumi “Mega Megu” Fujii this Thursday night at Bellator Fighting Championships 24 in Hollywood, Florida. Esparza will replace Angela Magana, who was forced to withdraw due to a foot injury.
Esparza is thus far unbeaten in mixed martial arts and is coming off of an impressive victory over Strikeforce veteran Lacey “The Ladie” Schuckman on July 16th. All three of Esparza’s wins have come by stoppage, but she will take a huge step up in competition when she challenges Fujii.
Esparza (3-0-0), a two-time All-American in wrestling out of Menlo College in Atherton, California, made her MMA debut on February 19th and has since won three times this year. A member of Team Oyama, Esparza trains alongside some of the top prospects in the sport and would become an overnight sensation if she is able to upset Fujii. Esparza also has considerable experience competing in USAW Wrestling/Grappling tournaments and has faced Josh Barnett protégé Ginele Marquez twice in USAW tournament action. She enters the Bellator fight on very short notice, but with everything to gain.
Fujii (20-0-0), widely regarded as the top female fighter in the sport, has dominated the lighter weight classes for six years. Seventeen of the Japanese star’s victories have come by stoppage, with most coming via armbar submission. Training under Barnett and Hiroyuki Abe, Fujii has dispatched of all available competition in Japan and made a successful debut for Bellator when she stopped Sarah “White Tiger” Schneider in June. Now looking to capture her first major championship, Fujii is three victories away from becoming Bellator’s first women’s champion.
Bellator 24 takes place this Thursday, August 12th, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. As first reported yesterday, Magana injured her foot in training and was forced to withdraw from the tournament as a result. She will reportedly be cleared to fight in one month and hopes to compete for Bellator soon.
(Photo Credit: FighterGirls.com)