But there would be no UFC contract for Espinosa that night. And he was okay with that.
“To be completely honest, I wasn’t really bummed out,” he said. “I was super happy just because me and that opponent had had history and I was happy to get the win. I did everything in my power to try and secure a contract, but that decision wasn’t up to me. So I focused on what I could control, and every time I go out there, I just try to improve and put on a good performance, and I did that.”
That maturity is rare in any walk of life, especially in prizefighting, where the opportunities aren’t always there for fighters that start their career at 4-4. In boxing, a record like that is a death sentence. It’s not necessarily the same in MMA, but there are fewer allowances for setbacks, and Espinosa knew it. So he had to dig even deeper to put together the kind of winning streak that would earn him a look from the UFC, and when you couple that with the outside pressure from friends and family, there was a lot for the New Mexico product to wade through.
“I have a computer engineering degree and I’ve had it for six years now and I haven’t used it at all because I decided I wanted to pursue my MMA career,” he said. “So everyone around me, including my parents, were wondering what I was doing. That’s where the scrutiny came from the outside. Internally, I put so much pressure on myself. At one point, I had a 4-4 record and in my own head I wondered whether I should even continue.”
“I was putting all my eggs in one basket and fighting was everything,” Espinosa said. “Then I had a mentality switch after the first Nick Urso fight. After that, I was like, ‘Why the hell am I doing this? Why did I start, why did I get into this?’ To have fun and enjoy it and to enjoy life. If I’m doing this and hating it, there’s no point in even doing it. So now I have the mentality that, win or lose, it’s not the biggest deal in the world. There’s a lot more important things in life than fighting. So now, I’ve learned to enjoy the process and the journey instead of worrying about the results so much. And since I had that mentality switch, things have fallen into place.”
After that first clash, Espinosa went 3-1, then beat Urso on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. He didn’t get the UFC contract that night, but after beating CJ Hamilton in March, he was back on DWTNCS in July. This time, he stopped Rilley Dutro in the third around, and when the dust settled, he got signed to the UFC.
But he’s here now, 28 years old and ready to take on the flyweight division’s best.
Right on time.
“I’m excited just to challenge myself with the top flyweights in the world,” he said. “That’s fun to me and that motivates me.”
JORDAN ESPINOSA WITH THE BIG LEFT! pic.twitter.com/EWJU8mKlh8
— UFC FIGHT PASS (@UFCFightPass) July 11, 2018