April 20, 2024

Yair Rodriguez reveals mistake that cost him against Alexander Volkanovski

Yair Rodriguez knows exactly where he screwed up against Alexander Volkanovski.

Last July, Rodriguez faced Volkanovski in a featherweight title unification bout at UFC 290, falling to the long-reigning champion via third-round TKO. It was an unfortunate result for “El Pantera,” but one that he believes taught him a valuable lesson moving forward in his career.

“Listen to my corner a little more,” Rodriguez said on The MMA Hour when asked what he did wrong against Volkanovski. “I wasn’t really listening to my corner. I did everything OK before the fight. During the fight, I started making some adjustments and I started picking it up slowly. I think I was doing a pretty good job until I got that good punch. I think he hit me with the head once in the third round, and I didn’t really take much time to come back and fight. My corner was like, ‘OK, take some time. You’re not in a rush.’ I didn’t listen. I just went back and after that I got the right hand and I was almost out. I couldn’t really defend myself that well. But it is what it is. That’s the name of the sport.

“I just tried to come back faster. I didn’t want the fight to cool down. I felt like, ‘I can do this,’ and then I got punched right after that and I felt it. It was a really good punch too. After that punch I was almost out, so I couldn’t really do much.”

Rodriguez admitted that in the immediate aftermath, he was upset with the outcome. But upon reflection, “El Pantera” says he believes his story with Volkanovski is not over yet.

“I was sad. I didn’t want to go back and watch the fight,” Rodriguez said. “I was like, ‘OK, whatever. I lost the fight.’ But I went back and watched the fight and it wasn’t that bad. I think I can get him in the next one. I’m still in contention. I’m still at the front of the division. I think I’m going to have another opportunity to fight for the title again.”

Rodriguez remains the No. 2-ranked featherweight, according to UFC. He begins his climb back to title contention on Saturday with a five-round rematch against Brian Ortega in the co-main event of UFC Mexico. The two first met back in 2022 in the main event of UFC on ABC 3, with Rodriguez winning in the first round after Ortega suffered a shoulder injury. The of nature of the ending left some fans dissatisfied with the result, and now the two have a chance to correct that — and do so in Rodriguez’s home country.

“I like the fact that I’m fighting in Mexico City,” Rodriguez said. “It just kind of surprised me that they didn’t give me the main event but still gave me five rounds. But who cares? Whatever. I’m OK with whatever.

“I didn’t really have much options [for opponent]. They offered Brian Ortega and I said yes. I’m OK with that. Many people didn’t like the result of the last fight. But who cares? We’re fighting again and I guess now there will be no doubt.”

And when the cage door closes, Rodriguez believes that home field advantage will be enormous, and ultimately lead to the same outcome as the first go around.

“I don’t know if Brian has been preparing himself at high elevation, but I think he’s going to try and come quick at me,” Rodriguez said. “Try and take my back, take me down. He’s going to try and do something desperate like that and it’s going to lead to me winning the fight because of him getting desperate. He’s going to feel the elevation, he’s going to feel the pressure of the public, he’s going to feel my pressure because I am 100 percent not getting tired in that fight, and I think I’m going to get him in the second round.”

UFC Mexico takes place on Feb. 24 at Arena CDMX in Mexico City. It’s set to be headlined by a flyweight rematch between Brandon Moreno and Brandon Royval.