Following her second straight loss at LFA 26 in November of last year to Nicolle Caliari, strawweight Itzel Esquivel made the conscious decision to take time away from fighting.
During her time off, Esquivel focused on her health and developing a stronger ground game to compliment her already solid stand-up skills.
“We kind of planned to take this time off,” Esquivel told MMAWeekly.com. “I had a couple injuries that I needed to let heal. Also school was pretty tough this whole year. So I was kind of focusing on that, but I was training the whole time.
“I joined the wrestling club at U of H and ended up wrestling for them during the folkstyle season and ended up placing third in that.”
In her last two fights it became apparent that Esquivel’s ground game was a big part of why she suffered the losses, and that it needed to be addressed.
“We were always working ground game and things like that because of how my last two fights have been going,” said Esquivel. “That’s what we knew we needed to work on and strengthen more than the striking which I’ve been doing for a while now.
“I’ve matured a lot overall. Compared to this time last year, I’m way better. I feel that I have been improving a lot more.”
Esquivel (2-2) will look to get back on track when she takes on Desiree Yanez (1-0) in an LFA 43 main card 115-pound bout on Friday in Beaumont, Texas.
“I think I match up very well against her,” Esquivel said of Yanez. “She’s very tough. I think she also very good in every aspect of the sport; both the ground game and her striking.
“I just think I need to work more of my striking and kind of out-strike her. I’ve got to use my angles a lot more. I think I’m a little faster than her, so I think that will play into me winning.”
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Now that she’s back to fighting, Esquivel is looking to move forward in a more calculated fashion and rebuild her career into something that can take her to the next level.
“Before we were in a rush to kind of go higher into the sport; the goal was the UFC, and that’s why we were trying to take fights quickly and get a good record going,” said Esquivel. “But since I’m 2-2 I’m trying to take fights more intelligently.
“I’d like to fight at least one more time this year, but if it doesn’t happen then I’m not worried about it. We kind of have to see how this fight goes, and based on the result of this, (we’ll know if I’m) going to end up fighting sooner or later.”