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MMA: Espinosa is set to make his UFC debut

Often, a phone interview is begun with this perfunctory question from the interviewer: “How are you doing?”

Usually, the equally perfunctory answer is “Great!” or “Just fine!” or, at least, “OK.”

Wednesday, in advance of Jordan Espinosa’s UFC flyweight fight Saturday against Eric Shelton, Espinosa’s response to that seemingly harmless question was, “I’ve been better.”

Ruh-roh. What’s the problem?

It was nothing, Espinosa explained, that shedding a few pounds wouldn’t cure. As unpleasant as the weight-cutting process is, it’s something the Albuquerque MMA fighter has done successfully many times before.

“It sucks,” he said from Nashville, Tenn., site of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 148, of trimming down to the flyweight limit of 125 pounds. “It always sucks. But it’s a part of (combat sports) that I’ve been used to since high school wrestling.”

Espinosa can’t say he’s equally accustomed to fighting in the UFC, since Saturday’s fight will be his long-awaited debut.

After defeating fellow Albuquerquean Nick Urso in the finals of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series in August 2017, Espinosa reasonably could have expected a UFC contract offer. It didn’t happen.

Some 11 months later, Espinosa defeated Riley Dutro in the final of his second appearance on the Contender Series. The contract offer came.

Then, however, Espinosa’s debut was delayed when his knee injury cancelled a scheduled fight in November against Mark De La Rosa.

Now, finally — barring the unforeseen — the time has come.

“It’s exciting,” Espinosa said. “It’s been two years of work and grind to get to this point.”

The UFC has done him no favors in matching him with Shelton (13-5), a veteran of five UFC fights. But no favors is what he expected.

“I’m aware that everyone I go up against is gonna present their own unique challenge and they’re here for a reason.” he said. “So I prepare that way and I don’t overlook that fact.”

Of Shelton (12-5) specifically, Espinosa (13-5) said he sees a well-rounded fighter with no glaring holes in his game but who, he said, “isn’t really great at anything, either. I think one of the advantages he’s had against most of his opponents is that he’s generally been faster than them, and I think I’ll have that advantage this time.

“I’ve never fought anybody that I felt had a speed advantage over me, and, yeah, I expect that to be the same come Saturday.”

Espinosa trains at Albuquerque’s Luttrell-Yee MMA. Both Ray Yee and Chris Luttrell, he said, will be in his corner in Nashville.

The Espinosa-Shelton fight is scheduled to be the first on the card, to be streamed on ESPN+ starting at 3 p.m.

WATERSON: Albuquerque MMA fighter Michelle Waterson is the subject of an ESPN E:60 production, entitled “Cage Mom,” scheduled to be aired Sunday morning.

The show focuses on how Waterson has successfully balanced motherhood with MMA. Araya, her daughter with husband Josh Gomez, a former amateur and pro boxer, is now 8 years old.

It is scheduled to air Sunday at 7 a.m. MT on ESPN and at 8 a.m. on ESPN2.

Waterson (16-6) is scheduled to face Poland’s Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-3) on a March 30 UFC card in Philadelphia. A victory, she believes, could put her in line for a strawweight (115-pound) title shot.

WEIGHT A MINUTE: Christian Edwards, an MMA light heavyweight who trains in Albuquerque at Jackson-Wink, was to have made his pro debut tonight on a Bellator card in Thackerville, Okla. Edwards is from Yukon, Okla., a two-hour drive away.

On Thursday, however, Ramon Huerta, Edwards’ opponent, weighed in at 227 pounds — a staggering 22 pounds over the light heavyweight limit. The fight was canceled.

Understandably, Edwards had some uncomplimentary words (unprintable here) for Huerta on Instagram.

“I’m so sorry to everyone who bought tickets to come watch me crush this scrub, but it is what it is I guess,” he wrote. “… I’ll be back Oklahoma. I promise.”

Saturday: UFC Fight Night 148, Nashville, Tenn.: Stephen Thompson vs. Anthony Pettis, Jordan Espinosa vs. Eric Shelton, 10 other fights.

Streaming: ESPN+, 3 p.m.

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