Marina Rodriguez will need at least one more win before she gets her long-awaited shot at Ultimate Fighting Champonship (UFC) Strawweight gold.
Despite riding a solid four-fight win streak, the promotion had already been trying to get Rodriguez a fifth potential win. The Brazilian Muay Thai specialist was offered to compete at UFC 275 in June 2022 against former champion, Zhang Weili. Instead, that spot went to Joanna Jedrzejczyk after Rodriguez declined because of the limited prep time along with her then-teammate, Taila Santos, getting the team’s focus for her big Flyweight title tilt on the same card.
UFC still wanted Zhang on the card with or without Rodriguez and her second-round knockout victory over Jedrzejczyk (watch highlights) was enough to secure China’s first UFC titleholder as the next contender for the champion, Carla Esparza. The two will meet in UFC 281’s co-main event on November 12, 2022, in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
“Yeah, there’s a little bit of frustration, of course,” Rodriguez told MMA Mania of getting passed over for the title shot. “But I work for UFC, I’m a good employee, so I do whatever I have to do. Like Dana White says, timing is everything, and the timing that I couldn’t fight Zhang at that time, she took the fight and she got the title shot. It is what it is, but yeah, there’s a little bit of frustration, for sure.”
Another former champion, Jessica Andrade, was then thrown in Rodriguez’s direction by the promotion, but she once again declined because they’re both under the same management. Each fighter has agreed that they will fight one day, according to Rodriguez, it just won’t be without a title on the line.
The likely best option left for the No. 3-ranked contender to stay active while the title fight happens appeared to be the most recent champion, Rose Namajunas. Unfortunately for Rodriguez, “Thug” is currently taking some time away from competition, and that’s left her with a date against Amanda Lemos on Nov. 5, 2022, at UFC Vegas 64.
“Amanda Lemos is very tough,” Rodriguez said. “She hits hard, very hard, and she’s confident. She’s confident when she’s fighting someone who wants to strike her, right? But if she fights me, she’s never fought someone who hits as hard as me. So, if she feels confident to fight me like that, it’s gonna be better for me. But we know three rounds there is always a big plan and I know eventually she’s gonna try to take me down. Since I’ve signed up with UFC, I’m ready for that. Eventually, this is gonna happen, so yeah, this is gonna be a great fight.”
After a win, Rodriguez (16-1-2) has everything planned out. With five straight victories over ranked competition, she won’t be denied and hopes to get her redemption against the only person to defeat her, Esparza. The timing may not allow that in a dream scenario, however, as Rodriguez believes Zhang will hear “and new” for a second time in her career.
“Absolutely [I’ll make a call out after beating Lemos],” Rodriguez said. “My focus is 100 percent on this fight. Don’t worry, be ready. If I win, it doesn’t matter how, I’m gonna send a message. I’m gonna call out and I’m gonna make sure that [it’s] my time. If everything goes right, I’m gonna be sitting close to the cage to watch the title defense and I’m gonna be next.”