Top contender Carla Esparza was among those impressed by champion Rose Namajunas’ title defense at UFC 268 on Saturday.

A former titleholder and opponent of Namajunas’, Esparza (18-6 MMA, 9-4 UFC), who some think should be next in line for the champion, congratulated “Thug Rose” on her five-round unanimous decision win over Zhang Weili.

While Esparza said her congratulation was not a callout, she hinted at a potential fight between the two down the line.

“Congratulations @rosenamajunas on a fantastic victory!” Esparza wrote on her Instagram. “Inspiring to so many and and I am truly happy for you Fate had us cross paths when we created this division and I’m proud that 7 years later we are both still here at the top of it. This is not a call out or anything disrespectful… this is genuine respect. You deserve time to celebrate and enjoy this accomplishment. It will be an honor to run this back when you are ready.”

Esparza and Namajunas have history. At the Season 20 “Ultimate Fighter” finale in December 2014, Esparza won the inaugural UFC women’s strawweight title when she submitted Namajunas in Round 3.

Currently, Esparza is riding a five-fight winning streak with victories over Xiaonan Yan, Marina Rodriguez, Michelle Waterson, Alex Grasso and Virna Jandiroba.

UFC 268 took place Saturday at the Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card streamed on ESPN+ pay-per-view after prelims on ESPN News and ESPN+.


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