Jessica Aguilar Knows Stakes Are High in Upcoming Bout with Carla Esparza
By Kelsey Mowatt
Last September, Jessica “”Jag” Aguilar came within one judge’s ruling from advancing to the finals of Bellator’s 115lb. women’s tournament, but in the end, a controversial split decision sent opponent Zoila Gurgel onwards in her championship run. Since the bout, Aguilar has remained focused on working her way to a rematch, and when the 29 year-old- faces Carla Esparza at Bellator 46 on June 25th, more than her eleventh pro victory will be at stake. (Pictured: Aguilar (left) in her bout with Gurgel)
“This fight is very important to me,” Aguilar (10-4) told FCF. “Obviously it’s my first fight back with Bellator since my loss against Zoila, so I have to show them that I truly deserve another chance at a rematch, or that I truly deserve to be there; that I truly deserve to be at the top.”
The bout will take place on the undercard of Bellator’s upcoming event, which will be hosted by the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. While the Aguilar, Esparza tilt is not taking place in one of Bellator’s standard tournaments, Aguilar believes that the winner could jump into the title shot picture.
“I’ve heard different things although they haven’t announced anything to me,” said the decorated grappler who is coming off a first round submission victory over Elsie Henri in November. “I’ve heard that Zoila wants to defend her title at 115 and I think that her next fight would be sometime in August. So I’m hoping, guessing and I’ve heard rumors that hopefully the winner of this match could go on to fight Zoila. But I’m not sure.”
Esparza will head into the June 25th bout sporting a 5-1 record, with the 23 year-old-fighter’s only pro loss coming to Japanese star Megumi Fujii at Bellator 24 last August.
“She’s tough,” said Aguilar about Esparza, who is coming off back-to-back victories over Nina Ansaroff and Yadira Anzaldua . “I haven’t seen her fight but I will sometime before we do. My coaches put the strategy together and what I do is focus on what I need to sharpen, but I know she’s tough; I know she’s a good wrestler and it’s going to be a good fight.”
Not only is Aguilar eager to compete at Bellator 46 for the reasons outlined above, but also because it will mark the first time she has fought since November. By this time last year the American Top Team fighter had already competed twice.
“It’s been both positive and negative,” said Aguilar while discussing her layoff between bouts. “It’s been seven long months. I’ve taken some time off but not too much time off because I’ve had four fights fall through within these seven months. I’ve been training; I’ve still been in the gym so there hasn’t been too much resting or too much fun time. It’s been positive because I’ve kept improving but negative because my fights haven fallen through.”
In fact, Aguilar was scheduled to fight at Jewels 12th Ring in Tokyo, Japan on March 11th, but the event was cancelled due to the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the island nation that same day.
“I’ll never forget that; I think it had to have been the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced,” Aguilar admitted. “It felt like a movie you know? You’re in a movie where you see someone going through something and you think ‘this is it.’ I’m lucky to be here and to have another opportunity to step into the cage and do what I love to do; try to help people.”
“It was very sad,” Aguilar added. “My heart still goes out to all the people in Japan. My fight June 25th will be a tribute to Japan and I’ll be selling some shirts that I’ll be coming out to. Half of the shirt sales I will donate to Japan.”