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Yair Rodriguez explains UFC departure, shoots down claims he was ducking fights

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Rising Featherweight contender Yair Rodriguez found himself out of a UFC job a few weeks ago after company president Dana White cut the Mexican-born star citing multiple fight rejections as the reason behind not having use for him anymore.

Read all about it here.

Now, “Pantera” is giving his side of the story, which is obviously much different from that of his former boss. White insisted Yair turned down bouts against Ricardo Lamas and then Zabit Magomedsharipov, which was all but signed for UFC 227. But before those bouts were even in the picture, according to Rodriguez, he was calling for a February showdown against Josh Emmett, which Josh apparently declined, ultimately paving the way for Jeremy Stephens to get the contract.

Soon thereafter, “Pantera” personally asked White to consider him as a late replacement to face Frankie Edgar -- who he lost to at UFC 211 — at UFC 222 after Max Holloway bowed out with an injury. In the end, Brian Ortega got the call.

Then things really got sticky, as Yair revealed he actually accepted a fight offer to face Ricardo Lamas and it was “The Bully” who initially didn’t want the showdown. It wasn’t until a fight between Yair and Zabit started hitting the rumor mill that the chance to face Lamas surfaced again.

“They said Ricardo Lamas, then I said yes to Ricardo Lamas,” Rodriguez said on a recent edition of The MMA Hour (via MMA Fighting). “I accepted to fight Ricardo Lamas, but then I later learned that he didn’t take the fight with me. He decided to fight (Mirsad) Bektic instead. Then, during that process, the Zabit fight was causing a lot of hype on social media.… I was like, alright, this is going to be great. I started looking at the big potential for this fight. And it was kind of my fault that I — like a week after Lamas declined the fight, Sean Shelby called me again and he said, ‘Hey, the Lamas fight is still back open. It’s back open for you to fight.’ And after I was asking for any top-10 [opponent] and they didn’t want to give it to me, and then Lamas took Bektic instead of me, I was kind of disappointed. Just kind of disappointed, I’ll say that.”

Yair’s main objective was to face a top 10 opponent and facing Zabit (ranked No. 12) would’ve have kind of been a step back. Still, it was the better option — style wise — and an opportunity to bank more coin if negotiations went as planned.

Which, of course, they didn’t

“I started looking at this other fight with Zabit. It was making a lot of sense for me because of the stylistic matchup and stuff. We saw big potential of renegotiating my contract. There was a negotiation that if they wanted me to fight him in LA (at UFC 227), which, I said I’ll fight him in LA, of course, but [only] if you pay me more, because I had saying for the last year that I wanted to fight a top 10 [opponent]. I’m not picking my opponents. I’m just saying I deserve a top 10. Anyone. I actually asked for ‘Korean Zombie’ as well, but they told me he wasn’t ready, even though he posted some stuff on Twitter saying that he wanted to fight Frankie,” said Yair.

“I was like, okay, I’ll fight Zabit if you give me more money in LA, because I understand how big of an event it is, and they said no,” Rodriguez continued. “I was like, okay, if you don’t want to give me more money to fight him in LA, why don’t you give [the fight] to me in Russia, and there’s no need to do any negotiation for that. I want him in Russia. Why? Because he was calling me out. I’m the guy who, I never say much, I just act. I don’t have to be talking about this on my social media.”

And despite the promotion announcing an event on Moscow, Russia for Sept. 15, Yair vs Zabit wasn’t in the company’s plans.

“They didn’t even want to give it to me in Russia. Then I was like, okay, you don’t want to give me more money to fight him in LA, you don’t want to give me a top-10 [opponent]. Now I’m looking — now I see how the things are going.”

“I told them I will accept anyone in the top 10,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t need a negotiation for a top-10 [opponent]. This guy was No. 13 when I was No. 7. I just got beat by Frankie. It’s just one fight. I’m 6-1 in the UFC. I just think that’s what I deserved, and they didn’t want to give it to me. That was more about respect, respecting myself.”

After the “eye-opening experience,” Rodriguez says he has no hard feelings for White or UFC, and says he actually tried to reach Dana once more to thank him for the opportunity to fight inside the octagon. Calls that have not been returned, according to “Pantera.”

Rodriguez, though, is not living in the past and says he already has plenty of offers from other promotions and is currently mulling over his options to see what suits him better. At the end of the day, though, it seems cutting Yair for allegedly turning down fights when it seems to be the norm in other cases, doesn’t make all that much sense.