UFC Denver's Yair Rodriguez still hasn't let go of Zabit Magomedsharipov
DENVER – UFC featherweight Yair Rodriguez is relieved to be back in the game after more than a year on the bench courtesy of a serious injury.
“It’s been pretty tough the last year and a half,” Rodriguez (10-2 MMA, 6-1 UFC) told MMAjunkie in advance of his FS1-televised headliner opposite Chan Sung Jung (14-4 MMA, 4-1 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 139. “I’m pretty happy to be headlining this event, the 25th anniversary of the UFC, which makes me a lot more happy.
“With a new life and new energy, I don’t know what else to say. I’m just happy to be here.”
A thorax injury kept Rodriguez from carrying out daily activities, much less preparing for a scheduled fight against Zabit Magomedsharipov at UFC 228. The timing of the scratch couldn’t have been worse given a spat with the UFC where he turned down the hot up-and-comer and was subsequently released from his contract.
Rodriguez, an honorable mention in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings, tried to keep his head up through the uncertainty and focus on his comeback.
“I’m not ducking fights – I’m not ducking anyone,” he said. “This is what I’ve been doing for all my life, since five years old. I have tons of street fights. I’m not afraid of fighting. It’s why I’m still here. But life happens, guys, and sometimes you can’t do (expletive) about it. Sometimes it’s harder than what it looks like when you don’t have my shoes on.”
Now healthy, the 26-year-old Mexican fighter is ready to show fans he’s still a threat in the division against Jung, who replaced ex-champ Frankie Edgar, in a proposed rematch.
Although Rodriguez’s career has gone another direction, he hasn’t forgotten about Magomedsharipov. Although his position hasn’t changed from the time the UFC first proposed the bout, he’s willing to show the promotion he’s a cut above the Dagestan-born fighter.
Rodriguez called for the matchup to be rescheduled, only to get Edgar (and then Jung). He may need to rack up a win before he’s got the leverage to make the fight happen, but he’ll keep pushing for it.
“I’ll fight him any time, anywhere,” he said. “But I still think he needs to prove himself. I have seven fights in the UFC; six wins, one loss, four ‘Performance of the Night,’ and I have headlined two events. I’ll say that any time. I don’t care if I have to fight him here or in a gym. I don’t care.”