Yair Rodriguez picked up the biggest and most impressive win of his rather young mixed martial arts (MMA) career against B.J. Penn, taking out "The Prodigy" via second-round technical knockout at UFC Fight Night 103 (video replay here) a few weeks ago.
And though he looked impressive in the featherweight scrap, peppering "Baby J" at will for five minutes with an array of strikes before putting the longtime veteran away in the opening seconds of round two, much of the talk was how bad Penn looked as opposed to how good Yair performed.
During a recent interview on The MMA Hour, "El Pantera" admitted that accepting the fight was a lose-lose situation for him from the jump.
"For me, the fight was lose-lose. A lot of people think it’s win-win for me, but it was not. Why? Because people say BJ is old, so if I kick BJ’s ass, then they’ll say I kicked an old guy’s ass. But if I lose, then people will say Yair is not what we thought he was. So what can I do? I just go there and kick ass, that’s my job."
Jason Parillo — Penn’s striking coach — recently stated that giving Penn such a tough matchup in his first fight back was a mistake. Rodriguez, however, doesn’t agree, as he says a fight is a fight and though he made it look easy, it was far from it.
"I didn’t know I was going to win (like that), and for me it wasn’t easy. It probably looked easy from the outside, but being inside there is hard. I don’t know if it was a mistake, but a fight is a fight no matter what. You can’t take away the value of the fight because of something."
What will make his victory seem even more impressive, is the fact that Rodriguez suffered a level LCL sprain in his knee, which prevented him from training to his full capacity.
"I was training really hard, then I get hurt at the beginning of my training camp, so basically was doing nothing but boxing. It was a tough training camp and I almost dropped the fight becasue I couldn’t even walk because me knee was really bad."
After resting it to the best of his ability while going through physical therapy, Yair decided to go through with the bout after he was finally able to start kicking two weeks from fight night.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Yair is still on the mend due to the injury, but won’t require surgery to repair and doesn’t have a timetable for a return. And judging by this and his recent injury revelation, there's no telling when "El Pantera" will be back in action, though he expects to be back sooner, rather than later.