Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) currently has three Mexican champions.
Well, 2.5 when you consider that Parral’s Yair Rodriguez is the interim featherweight titleholder — and the first interim champion in UFC history to sport two belts. “El Pantera” will attempt to unify the titles when he collides with reigning 145-pound champion Alexander Volkanovski in the UFC 290 pay-per-view (PPV) main event this Sat. night (July 8, 2023) inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
UFC 290 will also feature Tijuana’s Brandon Moreno, who looks to defend his 125-pound title against longtime flyweight rival Alexandre Pantoja, “The Assassin Baby” will be looking to avenge two prior losses to the Brazilian “Cannibal” in the five-round co-main event. Both Rodriguez and Moreno were recently highlighted in a special photo spread by GQ Mexico, which included Guadalajara’s Alex Grasso, the current UFC women’s flyweight champion.
Grasso defends her title against ex-champion Valentina Shevchenko during a special UFC event held on Mexican Independence Day.
What does a victory at UFC 290 mean for Rodriguez?
“That’s a simple question and a big question as well,” Rodriguez told Cageside Press at the UFC 290 media day. “It means the work that we have put in, each [individually] but together at the same time, as a Mexican teammate at the same time if you want to see it that way, it’s been years and years working on this dream. And we’re changing literally the history of Mexico, not only in MMA but in sports. And if that doesn’t say enough, I don’t know what else to say, because we’re literally changing the way sports are being seen in a whole country, and that’s big enough.”
Moreno is the first Mexican-born fighter to win a UFC title.
“I think this is a huge statement for Mexican mixed martial arts,” the flyweight champion added. “I’m just happy for my country, I’m happy for Latin America in general, because UFC is starting to be known [in Mexico]. We’re good in combat sports, and I’ve said this before. In Taekwondo for example. We are good throwing punches, just we needed the support, we needed the opportunities, and obviously on our side we just need the discipline and the sacrifices. But man, we are ready for the biggest stage in mixed martial arts.”
Rodriguez first started training with Moreno at Jackson’s MMA more than a decade ago.
“First off, I want to express that Brandon Moreno, he’s an inspiration for me,” Rodriguez said at the UFC 290 media day (via MMA Junkie). “He was the first to win a UFC title for Mexico, and in a way, he opened my eyes. I’ve always known that things can be achieved. After I entered the UFC I saw that things were possible, that things were real, but he opened my eyes even more and said, ‘Look, bro. Here’s the UFC belt. Now everything beyond this depends on the individual.’ I’m proud to be sharing a card together, and that we’re representing Mexico in my case unifying the title and his defending it. But yeah, words can’t express how proud and happy I am to be in this position.”
Now the only thing left to do is win.
Remember that MMAmania.com 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 bouts on ABC/ESPN/ESPN+ 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. For the updated and finalized UFC 290 fight card and PPV lineup click here.