Carla Esparza’s choice for TUF 20 coach: Gilbert Melendez

The top-ranked women's strawweight fighter wants 'El Nino'.

As the last-ever Invicta FC strawweight champion, Carla Esparza will enter The Ultimate Fighter 20 house with a bit of a target on her back.

Esparza will join the rest of the cast as the 115-pound women’s division is introduced and, following a season with a typical tournament-style format, a champion will be crowned via The Ultimate Fighter for the first time ever.

So of course the pressure is ratcheted up for all of the fighters on the show, and there still remains one more element missing from the final roster call before the series begins filming in May.

Who will coach the new season of The Ultimate Fighter with the women’s strawweight division?

UFC president Dana White has stated that he won’t make the decision until next year once production dates are much closer.  There are always variables that play into the choice for Ultimate Fighter coaches including who is available, what rivalries are ongoing, and what title fights could potentially make the most sense.

The only thing that seems certain for now is that the coaches will most likely be men, who will then take over a team of women’s 115-pound fighters all gunning for the goal of becoming the first-ever UFC strawweight champion.

I think Gilbert Melendez would be awesome.

--Carla Esparza

Esparza, like every other fighter destined to be on the show, will gladly work with whoever the UFC opts, but she has a dream choice of fighters she would like to work with during her season of The Ultimate Fighter.  At the top of the list is a former Strikeforce lightweight champion, who also happens to be one of the top ranked 155-pound fighters in the UFC right now.

"I think Gilbert Melendez would be awesome," Esparza told FOX Sports.  "I even tweeted somebody was like ‘Oh, Gilbert Melendez would be cool’ and I was like that would be awesome.  He retweeted me and said ‘You’d definitely be Team Melendez’ so I’m like yeah cool, I hope he’s the coach!"

Melendez could always end up as a possibility depending on how the UFC decides to cast the coaches for the new season of the reality show.  Following his epic, three-round war with Diego Sanchez at UFC 166, Melendez’s stock is higher than ever and he could even be matched up against lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, who is currently sidelined following knee surgery that will keep him out of action until about the midway point of 2014.

The timing might work out for Melendez and Pettis to face off as coaches before battling for the belt.  Whether that comes to fruition or not remains to be seen.  The lightweight division contender’s race remains a crowded pack with Melendez right in the thick of things.

Esparza’s choice aside, the only other factor she would enjoy playing a part in a coaching choice is the kind of fighter she works with on the team.

"I would like to work with a wrestler because they would understand my style better and just understand me better as a fighter," Esparza commented.

Regardless of who the choice ends up being, Esparza will more than likely be smiling ear to ear when the show begins filming as she finally gets the chance to live her dream and compete in the UFC with the opportunity looming overhead to become the first-ever women’s 115-pound champion.