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Prodigy Yair Rodriguez earned Jon Jones’ respect with superior skills at 21: ‘He made me believe in myself even more’

Yair Rodriguez has come a long way.

UFC 290 fight week is here and Mexico’s best Featherweight, Rodriguez, will attempt to unify his interim title against undisputed kingpin, Alexander Volkanovski, this weekend (Sat., July 8, 2023).

Rodriguez, 30, made his promotional debut when winning The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America (TUF) in 2014. The Parral, Chihuahua native instantly became one of the more entertaining and flashy strikers on the roster. Known for his unpredictability with a variety of attacks, Rodriguez recalls catching the attention of one of the sport’s all-time greats during his early rise.

LIVE! Watch UFC 293 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

MASSIVE MIDDLEWEIGHT MATCH! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes its highly anticipated return to Sydney, Australia, for the first time in five years on Sat., Sept. 9, 2023, with a 185-pound world title fight inside Qudos Bank Arena. In the ESPN+-streamed pay-per-view (PPV) main event, Middleweight roost-ruler, Israel Adesanya, plans to silence No. 5-seeded contender, Sean Strickland. In UFC 293’s hard-hitting Heavyweight co-main event, No-6-ranked fan favorite, Tai Tuivasa, locks horns with towering Russian, Alexander Volkov (No. 8).

Don’t miss a single second of EPIC face-punching action!

“I remember one time when I was training in Albuquerque and then he (Jones) approached me,” Rodriguez told ESPN. “He said, ‘Hey, can you come here, please?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, for sure.’ He’s like, ‘What’s your name?’ I told him my name and he was like, ‘Your skills are impressive. How old are you?’ I was 21 years old in that moment. And he said, ‘When I was 21 years old, I didn’t have those skills. You’re gonna get far in this sport. Just keep going.’

“Coming from Jon Jones in that moment when he wasn’t my friend and he was just giving me inspirational words it was like something really special for me,” he concluded. “And he made me believe in myself even more.”

The UFC Heavyweight champion, Jones’, first record set in his illustrious career was that of youngest fighter to hold a title in promotional history. Jones won the UFC Light Heavyweight title against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua by third round technical knockout at age 23 in March 2011. A win for Rodriguez over Volkanovski at UFC 290 would extend his current winning streak to three and make him Mexico’s first undisputed 145-pound UFC titlist.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 290 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+/ABC at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 290: “Volkanovski vs. Rodriguez” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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