If you want to fight for the featherweight title, then you need to meet — or exceed — the accomplishments of Yair Rodriguez, who earned his crack at the 145-pound crown by outlasting two-time title challenger, Brian Ortega, in UFC Long Island’s main event.
The only thing standing between “El Pantera” and a shot at reigning champion Alexander Volkanovski is the Aussie’s plans to head north in search of a second title, which is the reason the once-beaten “Great” suggested the creation of a substitute strap in his absence.
“No, it’s not something that interests me to tell you the truth,” Rodriguez told MMA Junkie. “I think even though there are very good fighters, I think they need to fight more or at least fight against fighters who are in the top five. They want to jump and fight with me, and I literally just won the opportunity to fight for a title. I don’t think that’s fair sincerely. I’m not saying they’re not good fighters. They do have good fights, but they’re racking up wins outside the top five.”
The only fighter with a reasonable claim is featherweight slugger Josh Emmett, who is currently ranked two spots below Rodriguez at No. 4 (see the Top 15 here). “The Fighting Falmer” is the winner of five straight, including last month’s split decision victory over Calvin Kattar who, at the time, was ranked No. 5 in the division.
“I fought B.J. Penn, Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway, Brian Ortega ... you’re talking about fighters who were in the top five,” Rodriguez continued. “When I fought Jeremy Stephens, he was in the top five. So I don’t care how you put it, but there’s no one else who’s been fighting that type of caliber of fighters that I have. There’s no one that has the same number of bonuses, main events, this was my sixth main event from my 12 UFC fights. Look at it any way you want, the person who deserves the title shot the most, whether you like it or not, it’s me.”
Rodriguez (14-3, 1 NC) has compiled eight post-fight bonuses across his eight-year career with UFC but working against him is the fact he was soundly defeated by former champion Max Holloway at UFC Vegas 42, a bout that is less than a year old. In addition, “El Pantera” is just 3-1 with one “No Contest” over the last four years, thanks to both injury and inactivity.
Expect a decision from matchmakers over the next few weeks ... if not sooner.