Yair Rodriguez was once the hottest prospect in MMA and now, after years of grinding, he is just one fight away from a shot at the UFC featherweight title.
The 29-year-old suffered a devastating loss at the hands of former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, who he simply wasn’t ready to fight in 2017.
Rodriguez has proven he has the heart and skills to be a true title contender in his very next fight against fellow UFC veteran – Chan Sung Jung.
“El Pantera” went to war with “The Korean Zombie” in a contender of the year fight that had one of the craziest fight conclusions in UFC history.
Knowing he was on the cards seconds into the fifth and final round, Rodriguez challenged his opponent to stand up and punch with him for the remaining moments.
Jung, being the savage that he is, charged forward and was met with a reverse elbow from his opponent that left him face down on the canvas with just a second left on the fight clock – in what is the last knockout in UFC history.
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Rodriguez failed to immediately capitalize on the win as a no contest with Jeremy Stephens, injury issues and a six-month USADA ban left him one of the most frustrating and inactive fighters in the game. from the UFC roster.
Last time out in November, the Mexican fighter gave former champ Max Holloway all he could handle in five rounds and despite failing the judges’ scorecards, he came out with plenty of credit.
Rodriguez is set to face compatriot Brian Ortega this weekend at UFC on ABC 3 at UBS Arena in New York City.
A win for ‘T-City’ probably won’t be enough to earn him another title so soon after his lopsided decision loss to Volkanovski at UFC 266 last September.
However, Rodriguez would represent a new challenge for the champion and he was told he would challenge for the title next if he beat Ortega on Saturday.
“Yes, that was told to me. Yeah, that’s what we’re looking for,” he said on The MMA Hour.
“First of all, I’m going to win this fight, then give the champion time to heal and yeah, go for it. For now, let’s take it step by step, first of all, July 16, Brian Ortega is for now.
‘The Great’ is coming off a career best performance over his toughest and most credentialed opponent – Holloway.
Volkanovski scored a 50-45 unanimous decision from all three judges, meaning he didn’t lose a round as he proved he’s one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in MMA.
Rodriguez was impressed and inspired by Volkanovski’s performance at UFC 276 earlier this month.
“He looked amazing. It opened my eyes, and I better prepare for it if I want to be the champion. If I want to be the champion, I’m going to have to work because he’s tough. He is really tough,” he said.
The main event of UFC on ABC 3 is a high-stakes matchup for the 145-pound division. While Rodriguez may secure himself a title shot, the champion could well move up to lightweight if the winner of Ultimate Fighter: Latin America is not victorious against Ortega.