Karina Rodriguez has paid her dues as a member of the Invicta Fighting Championship roster. On May 21, 2021, all the hard work came to a climax in the form of a shiny gold belt.
The Puebla, Mexico native defeated Brazil’s Daiana Torquato by way of unanimous decision in the main event of Invicta’s first show on AXS TV. For Rodriguez, it was her second opportunity to compete for the ever-elusive title — her prior fight coming against then-champion Vanessa Porto whom she lost to via unanimous decision after her weight miss made it a non-title bout.
“I think I was a little bit nervous on that day, different compared to my last fights where I was more relaxed and more loose on the feet with my punches but I think in this fight I started a little bit tense and nervous because of the magnitude of the fight,” Rodriguez told MMAMania.com. “But then every round, I started relaxing and finding my rhythm, imposing my pace on the fight. So at the end, I took all the rounds but I had to recognize that Torquato is a very tough opponent. She’s a very great fighter, I respect her and her team, and it was a tough fight like I was expecting. I don’t think a championship fight is going to be easy
“[The feeling is] amazing. The first time is a little bit hard to believe when you have the belt on your waist. It’s a lot of feelings and images in my mind. On the first days, it was a little hard to recognize that achievement because for me it was a very, very big achievement. But now I can feel like a champion. I feel like I own this belt and I don’t want anybody to take this away from me.”
Rodriguez, 36, will hit the decade mark as a professional come July 2022. In recent years, she’s just gone with the flow carrying a “just one more” type of mentality as her mother continually wonders when she’ll call it a career.
Going forward, the Lobo Gym staple just wants to enjoy her time as a champion and competitor in the sport — no matter where that takes her.
“I want to fight with a lot of enjoyment — less pressure,” Rodriguez said. “I think I achieved what I needed to achieve. I don’t need more. It doesn’t mean that I am a comfortable person, I’m going to put effort and everything I got into making new achievements. But I also want to really enjoy what I’m doing, I don’t want this distress. So that’s what I’m gonna do. The fights that I have in my career in the future, two or twenty, I don’t know, but I want to enjoy that — everything. That’s my main goal.”
A consistently entertaining fighter to watch, Rodriguez specified that she hasn’t felt a lack of enjoyment throughout her career, it was more so just the big moment that came to be in her last time out.
“Not all of my fights [did I feel that way],” she said. “The last four to five fights, I’ve been enjoying. But the last one [I] just had pressure on myself. Like, ‘I need to win this belt because everybody expects me to win this belt.’ And I expect to win this belt because I’ve been working for this all these years. So I think I had more pressure than I wanted to have because that doesn’t let me enjoy it the way I want to. Because the fight before that fight, the one that I lost with Porto, I really had a good time. I was enjoying the moment, I was there. And the other one, I was like, ‘Ahhh…’
“I want that relaxation, not thinking about the result, what is going to happen if I win or if I lose, just be there. That’s the best part of this game.”
Once again headlining, Rodriguez will make her first title defense at Invicta 46 on Mar. 9, 2022, when she faces the debuting Ketlen Souza.
Like her last opponent in Torquato, the champion sees Souza as a very aggressive and explosive fighter which always can lead to competitive outings. As we’ve seen time and time again with Rodriguez, these types of opponents are always the ones who bring the best out of her.
“I’ve been watching some of her last fights and I know that she has a lot of belts in Brazil so she’s an experienced fighter,” Rodriguez said. “The number of fights she has is similar to mine so we have the same experience. But Invicta is a big league and for her, I think it’s gonna be great just to fight out of Brazil in the United States and in this league which is so important for the female MMA athletes.”