Breakout UFC star Yair Rodriguez, at just 24 years old, is already on the verge of competing for the featherweight title.
He has his eyes focused on much loftier goals in the sport.
“I’m not looking to do less than other guys have already done for the sport,” he said during a stop in Las Vegas over the weekend for promotional appearances and to attend the boxing match between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at T-Mobile Arena. “I’m here to do more than that. I don’t want to be just another fighter or just another champion. I want to be ‘that guy.’
“It’s not enough to be No. 1. You’ve got to be No. 1 and you have to be special in order for you to be remembered. If you want to be truly great, you have to do something special. I will show it to you, it’s just a matter of time.”
Rodriguez is 6-0 in the UFC and will put his winning streak on the line against former champion Frankie Edgar on the main card of UFC 211 in Dallas on Saturday. All five of Edgar’s career losses have come by decision and Rodriguez knows stopping him would make a statement.
Rodriguez is just done hearing about Edgar’s durability.
“I had never been knocked out until I got knocked out,” Rodriguez said of the only loss of his career, before he reached the UFC. “Why does everyone think nobody can knock him out? Why? He’s human. Everyone can be knocked out. It just depends who is in front of you. People keep saying, ‘Oh, wow, he’s never been knocked out. Look at that.’ He doesn’t have a (expletive) iron brain. Come on guys, wake up.”
Any win over Edgar would be massive for Rodriguez, who continues to rise both in the rankings and in popularity.
The native of Parral, Chihuahua, is the UFC’s latest hope to make a major splash in Mexico. Rodriguez has embraced the organization’s marketing push and believes he can be the fighter to help drive the popularity of mixed martial arts in a nation where boxing is beloved.
He thinks he can even eclipse the popularity of Alvarez.
“I can be bigger (than him),” Rodriguez said. “Mexican people already have a lot of love for boxing stars, but they don’t have an MMA star. It’s just me. I’m going to be that star. I’m already a star in Mexico, but I’m going to be huge. I have the Latin American market behind me and part of the United States too because I’m bilingual. I have all these advantages. I feel blessed and amazing.”
All of those expectations can be crippling to the development of a fighter, but Rodriguez has embraced it.
“Sometimes I cry because I’m really, really happy all of this is happening to me,” he said. “But what is happening to me is not just luck. I don’t believe in luck. I believe in hard work. I work really hard every day in every aspect from my mental game to my physical game to my spiritual game. I fall asleep thinking about it, wake up thinking about it, and eat thinking about it. Every day it’s all about becoming the best fighter in the world.”
Rodriguez’ fight Saturday comes on a card that features a heavyweight title bout between champion Stipe Miocic and former champ Junior dos Santos. Women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk will also defend her belt against Jessica Andrade.
If a boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor is agreed to over the next couple months, a new date will have to be discussed.
UFC president Dana White told the Review-Journal early Sunday that Sept. 16 had been the target date the sides were working toward on the proposed megafight.
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin announced Saturday they intend to fight on that night.
In a text message, White said it was just a matter of their deal being done before Mayweather and McGregor were close enough to an agreement to officially book a date and an arena.
“The deal didn’t get done in time, so they got it,” White wrote. “It’s a great fight! I will be there.”
Golden Boy Promotions has reserved T-Mobile Arena for Sept. 16, though a venue for the bout has not been confirmed.
Conor McGregor’s longtime girlfriend Dee Devlin gave birth to the couple’s first child in Dublin on Friday.
Conor Jack McGregor Jr. weighed in at 8 pounds, 14 ounces. McGregor announced in November he was taking a hiatus from fighting while Devlin was pregnant.
Contact Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.
May 13: UFC 211 (FS1/PPV), Dallas
May 20: Invicta FC 23 (Fight Pass), Kansas City, Missouri
May 28: UFC Fight Night 109 (FS1), Stockholm
June 3: UFC 212 (FS1/PPV), Rio de Janeiro