ABU DHABI – Former UFC women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza beat Marina Rodriguez via split decision Saturday on the main card of UFC on ESPN 14 on Yas Island.

Take a look inside the fight with Esparza, who edged a closely-fought battle after three punishing rounds at Flash Forum.

Result: Carla Esparza def. Marina Rodriguez via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
Records: Carla Esparza (17-6 MMA, 8-4 UFC), Marina Rodriguez (12-1-2 MMA, 2-1-2 UFC)
Key stat: Esparza handed Rodriguez her first career defeat and in the process extended her own win streak to four, with all of those successes coming via decision.

Esparza on her submission hopes

“I thought I really displayed my takedowns really well, and my ground and pound. I was really going for one of those submissions, especially out here in Abu Dhabi, where I know jiu-jitsu is so popular, so it would have been a great place to get one of those finishes. But, overall, I’m pretty happy with my performance.”

Esparza on being fired up by the sight of her own blood

“You know what? I’ve never really been cut like this before. It didn’t really cross my mind until the ref was like, ‘Hey, doctor! Come take a look at this,’ and I was like, ‘No! Please no!’ But fortunately, we were able to keep going. I saw the blood pouring out and I was like, ‘Ugh! Let me strategically put this on her.’ It’s kinda crazy when you’re in there. I know a lot of people when they see blood it kinda freaks them out. But for me, it’s kinda like, ‘Yeah! Let’s keep going!’”

Esparza on showcasing her toughness

“Man, I’ve been in this sport a long time. I’ve been hurt, I’ve been beaten up and I’ve been put in a lot of bad spots. But I think it’s a spot where it kinda shows your heart and shows your durability in this sport. Can you be put in those tough spots and keep coming and keep coming? That’s what I feel I’ve proved in my career.”

Esparza on getting the reward – and the respect – for her performances

“Yeah, I feel that I’ve always been a humble fighter in my career. … I just try to stay true to who I am and just keep winning fights, keep proving who I am through my performances and I feel, in time, those opportunities will come.”

To hear more from Esparza, check out the video of the full post-fight interview above.