Yair Rodriguez is one of the most exciting fighters in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), but he’s had a hell of a time getting into the cage over the past two years. Fights with Zabit Magomedsharipov and Max Holloway in 2020 and 2021, respectively, were booked and then canceled, leaving “El Pantera” with just two fights since 2018.
During the UFC Vegas 42 media day, Rodriguez addressed the long delays and what kept him from plying his trade.
“I guess it was difficult for a lot of reasons,” Yair said (via MMA Junkie). “Personal reasons like COVID and, like, family passing away, friends recently passing away and injuries, mine and Max. Kind of everything added to this couple of years of being out of competition, but I’ve been really trying to get back in here, bro.”
“I was ready to fight in March, I’d been getting prepared,” he said. “When my [USADA whereabouts] suspension got over March 7, I was ready, and they told me that I was going to fight Max right in June, and then when it happened, then it was July. He got injured, and then we moved all the way here. That’s almost a year of just waiting, you know? But that’s the past. Now we’re here, and we’re looking forward for Saturday and doing our best, and we’re ready.”
Some people look at the Holloway booking as almost a sort of punishment for a fighter who UFC President, Dana White, has labeled as difficult to book. But, according to Rodriguez, he was a little bit afraid (but more excited) to test himself against Holloway.
When “Blessed” was injured, he made sure the fight stayed in place.
“I honestly wanted to fight Max,” Rodriguez said. “Whenever I got a call from Sean [Shelby, UFC matchmaker] and he say ‘What do you think about Max,’ I say he’s perfect let’s do it. I like big opportunities like this. And whenever he got injured, I was sad. But I understood at the same time because I’ve been injured before. And I was like ‘Okay, let’s wait for him and see when he’s gonna be back.’ They told me it could be six months to a year. I said if it’s going to be a year I don’t know if I wanna wait for him but if it’s six months we can do it. So it was six months and now this is happening.”
“I have jumped out of an airplane three times, and everybody says right when you’re scared to jump, that’s when you jump. And that’s what I did with this fight. You know, I was a little scared to jump, but at the same time I was excited. When I’ve got that feeling inside me, that emotion in my stomach, I was like, ‘OK, this is going to be a good fight. Take it. Let’s go. Let’s do it,’ and we’ll just train hard and everything else will be fine.”
Rodriguez also addressed that six-month USADA suspension he sat through for failing to update the drug testing agency of his whereabouts.
“I actually, some of my friends and family, my manager right here, they’ll tell you my phone is like no battery all the time,” he explained. “I’m never on social media. I’m really bad with all that. They’ve been helping me out, but I’m just bad at answering. So every time I was trying to move from, I don’t know, I call myself a nomad, I like moving from one place to another to another to another. And sometimes I just forgot to [update USADA]. I wasn’t in the location I told USADA I was going to be.”
“In one year I failed three times, and that got me to a suspension, a six month suspension. But it’s a learning experience and now I’ve got people that are taking care of specifically that.”
For now, Rodriguez is putting one foot in front of the other. Even though a win over Max Holloway throws him in the mix for a title shot, he’s not thinking that far ahead until the task at hand is complete.
“I’m sure that the title shot is going to be in front of me, but first I’ve got to win against Max,” he said. “Anything can happen in there, and I’m not focusing on that right now. My main focus is Max Holloway, Saturday the 13th at 3PM.”
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 42 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 4 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 42: “Holloway vs. Rodriguez” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.