The long awaited fight between Randa Markos and Carla Esparza will finally take place next month at UFC Halifax. The two strawweights were part of TUF Season 20 back in 2014 where Markos fell short in the semi-finals and Esparza went on to become the promotion’s first ever strawweight champion.
Despite never getting to fight during the show, fans still hoped for a future match-up between the two strawweights. On TUF, Markos knocked off Felice Herrig who is good friends with Esparza which sparked the infamous line, “Don’t worry, you’re next.”
Fast forward two and a half years and they are finally set to throw down. Although always anticipated, the timing of the match-up was unexpected as after a disappointing outing in her last fight, Markos fell off the rankings while Esparza is ranked at number 3. Markos herself was a little surprised with the fight booking but is excited for the opportunity.
“I was kind of surprised that they gave me this fight after my last performance but I’m excited about it,” Markos said. “My last performance doesn’t define what kind of a fighter I am. I’ve come a long way since the show and I’m really excited to show off some more of my skills. On the show I beat the 3rd ranked girl so you never know what you’re going to get with me.”
Markos has lost 2 of her last 3, losing to former title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz via decision and Cortney Casey via first round arm bar. Her last fight versus Casey was back in August and ended rather quickly, leaving her eager to return ever since.
“With Karolina I felt like I stepped away from what I normally do,” Markos explained. “Going to Tristar and trusting in the process kind of bit me in the butt because I was kind of being forced to be a passive fighter when I’m not a passive fighter I’m more of a aggressive fighter and I feel like I lost that fight because of it. She’s a tough fight, she almost beat Joanna so I was really down on myself for losing that fight but she’s extremely durable and she almost knocked her out.”
“The last fight I don’t even want to talk about it that was horrible for me,” Markos said on the Cortney Casey fight. “It was a horrible horrible weight cut, I don’t want to blame it on the weight cut because I’ve had bad ones in the past and come back normal but I think my head wasn’t there and she caught me. That happens in MMA and sometimes you get caught.”
Having formerly trained at Tristar Gym and Michigan Top Team, Randa is currently training at multiple facilities in order to ensure that she improves each aspect of her game. Although it can be grueling at times, she believes she’s making the necessary adjustments and getting what she needs out of her training.
“I don’t train at Michigan Top Team anymore. I’m kind of all over the place,” Markos explained. “I train at Windsor Wrestling Club for my wrestling, I go to a boxing gym in Michigan for my boxing, I go to Strength and Conditioning in Amherstburg, I do my jiu-jitsu in Windsor with a couple of my coaches so I’m all over the place right now. I don’t really have a gym that I represent; I’m kind of representing myself right now.”
Now she has received a golden opportunity to get back on track when she takes on the 3rd ranked Esparza but considering their past, this one may have a little added emotion. Randa isn’t looking forward to the potential tension and isn’t dwelling too much on the past but is keeping the memories in her mind for added motivation.
“I’ll never forget the way she treated me, she’s just a horrible person and the way she treated me was not right,” Markos explained on her time with Carla at TUF. “I’ve always thought in the back of my head that one day I’m going to get my revenge on her and I guess to let her know how she made me feel and this is my opportunity.”
“So yeah it’s in the back of my mind but the past is the past and she’s a good wrestler and I came from a wrestling background so I really think this going to be a good fight for everyone to watch. It’s not just all the drama and the past that we have, it’s just a really good match up. Our skills match up really well and it will be a good fight for everyone to see.”
While both fighters possess a strong ground game, Markos feels she has the advantage on the feet and is comfortable wherever the fight goes.
“I definitely think I have the advantage on the feet. I think she’s going to try and take it to the ground but at the same time I think she went back to the drawing board and fixed a few things after her fight with Joanna so I’m expecting her to come out with a lot more skills than she did with that fight. Wherever the fight goes, I’m preparing for it.”
Since losing her title to current champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Esparza has been sidelined for over a year with a shoulder injury and finally returned to action this past April. She scored a unanimous decision win over Julianna Lima where she was able to show her dominant grappling ability. Despite not watching Esparza’s last fight, Markos isn’t too impressed with her style and believes it’s not too exciting.
“She’s pretty basic, she’s going to take you down and lay on you and she’s got a strong strategy going into her fights. I don’t really like her style, it’s not really a fan favourite style but it’s worked for her so why should she change it.”
“When she shoots she commits to it and continues with it until she gets you down so that’s what I’m looking for. She’s gonna try to commit to it and take me down but I’m prepared for it. I want to keep it standing but if she wants to take it to the ground I think she’s going to underestimate me on the ground and my takedown defense and that’s fine.”
This fight will take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, Randa’s home country and she will definitely have the crowd on her side. Excited to fight at home, Markos would love nothing more than to get a knockout win over her foe and re-enter the rankings emphatically.
“What I’d want to happen is that I knock her out. That would be great but she’s probably going to try and take me down, I’m going to defend her takedowns and try to keep it standing. I don’t think she can handle hard punches to the face as you saw with her fight with Joanna so we’ll see how it goes.”
Expected to be on the main card, this fight goes down on February the 19th in Halifax. With past history, the fans will finally get to see the match-up they long awaited for and it’s going to be a good one.