In her second reign as UFC strawweight champion, Namajunas (11-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) defended her title against Zhang Weili at UFC 268 in November, defeating her for a second consecutive time.
Eagerly waiting for a shot at gold is former champion Carla Esparza (18-6 MMA, 9-4 UFC), who submitted Namajunas in 2014 to win Season 20 of “The Ultimate Fighter” and the inaugural UFC strawweight title. Wittman, who won “Coach of the Year” at the 13th annual World MMA Awards on Friday, cornered Namajunas in that fight and would like nothing more than for his fighter to right that wrong.
“I think Carla is the biggest challenge out there right now,” Wittman told MMA Junkie. “She beat Rose, and that was where our team really came together. I thought as coaches we made some big, horrible decisions in that fight. I was almost too much of a fan. I watched her on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ submit everybody. I didn’t talk to her about a five-round fight. There’s a lot of things. So, I want that back as a coach. I think Carla is the toughest fight out there.
“Stylistically, she’s the toughest. She’s a grinder and whatever the UFC thinks, maybe it’s just marketability, but that’s the toughest fight out there. But I’m open to fighting anybody honestly. New challenges are great. Rose has got every one of her rematches back that she’s lost, so that would be cool to get back, but honestly the UFC makes the decisions. I’m a coach, and I’m just there to prepare them for who’s in front of them.”
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Despite Esparza winning her past five in a row, including back-to-back wins over top contenders Marina Rodriguez and Yan Xiaonan, UFC president Dana White seems hesitant to declare her as the No. 1 contender for a shot at Namajunas’ title.