Featherweight contender Yair Rodriguez didn’t get exactly what he wanted from the UFC, but that won’t change the way he views the challenge in front of him.
The Mexican star was angling to fight champion Alexander Volkanovski but instead got an interim title fight against fellow top contender Josh Emmett. The matchup came together as the UFC ended up granting Volkanovski his wish to challenge Islam Makhachev for the lightweight title in an effort to become a two-division champion. Volkanovski fights Makhachev on Feb. 11 in the main event of UFC 284 in Australia. The card also features Rodriguez’s (14-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) interim title fight against Emmett (18-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC).
“Yeah, I’m happy independently of whatever opportunity would’ve presented itself,” Rodriguez told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “It doesn’t matter if it’s for a belt or not. I always have to prepare myself against the best, and in this case the best for me is Josh Emmett. If I don’t, then I can get surprised in the fight.
“For me, whatever fight I have in front of me, that’s the most important fight of my life – just how I’ve done for my previous ones. I’m completely focused on Josh Emmett. I’ll worry about future opportunities when I get there.”
Rodriguez then added, “In terms of the past, I would’ve liked to have fought the actual champion and not be fighting for an interim belt, but that’s how things played out, and I’m not going to waste the opportunity. The UFC is giving me a chance to fight for an interim title, which is a great opportunity, and I’m not going to let it go to waste.”
Coach Javier Mendez: Islam Makhachev’s size and grappling will be too much for Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284
Alexander Volkanovski ‘more than OK’ with interim featherweight title fight at UFC 284
For Rodriguez, Emmett might as well be the best featherweight on the planet and not Volkanovski. He refuses to see the challenge any other way. The 30-year-old recognized Emmett to be a game fighter, and he won’t be fooled into taking him lightly just because Volkanovski is not involved in this title bout.
“He’s a very difficult rival,” Rodriguez explained. “He’s very dangerous, aggressive, durable, and tough. He has very good cardio. So he’s a very complete fighter.
“Like I mentioned, it would be a great mistake from my part to not respect him and not consider him as the fighter he is. I’m taking this very seriously. And nothing, I’m just focused on getting the win at all costs.”