IRVINE, Calif. — Invicta FC strawweight champion Carla Esparza took a break from MMA, earning the silver medal in the blue belt feather division at the 2013 Pan Jiu-Jitsu Tournament on Thursday.
The Pan was Esparza’s first as a Jiu-Jitsu competitor, and the only time she competed in a tournament wearing a gi.
“I jumped into it and I guess I did pretty good for not being so used to the gi,” Esparza told GracieMag.com following her final match against Judith Enerle. “This was kind of a last minute thing I wanted to do for fun, to see where I was at.”
Esparza fell short against Enerle in their final, losing on points in what was a new arena for the former wrestler. Jiu-Jitsu rules differ from both wrestling and MMA, which was difficult, Esparza said, for the fighter to understand only because she is so new to the format.
It all seemed complicated, she said, with advantages and disadvantages. Esparza added that she had to change her gi twice because the ones she had were not regulation, another aspect she’s not familiear with coming from the MMA world.
“It’s just little things,” she said. “(The IBJJF) seem like they’re really strict.”
Esparza will likely return to Invicta to defend her MMA title around June or July, she revealed, so the time before training camp will be dedicated to working on her gi training and earning her way up the belt system.
Pan is widely considered the second biggest Jiu-Jitsu tournament in the world, and Esparza said she finds some solace in earning a silver medal in a tournament of this magnitude. Although she wishes she earned the gold, “The Cookie Monster” said she finds herself becoming more technical as a fighter for having participated in the competition.
“I definitely can’t rely on my speed and muscle as much when someone’s grabbing onto me, and I have to stop and think about my technique,” she explained. “It definitely takes away some of the advantages you get from wrestling, and takes me back to my Jiu-Jitsu roots.”
Esparza said she plans on competing in more tournaments, but will return to MMA training soon in an effort prepare for her fight tentatively scheduled for summer.