UFC interim featherweight champion Yair Rodriguez said he has the secret formula to defeat Alexander Volkanovski and make a longtime dream a reality at UFC 290 in Las Vegas.
For many, fighting for a world title presents a new experience that fighters have to adapt to, but Rodriguez’s interim title win over Josh Emmett in February means he heads into his bout with defending champ Volkanovski with a belt already over his shoulder.
Speaking to the press during media day ahead of UFC 290 in Las Vegas, the Mexican star said that the experience of winning a championship – albeit an interim version – means that the magnitude of challenging for the undisputed belt is less daunting.
“Man, I have to be 100 percent honest with you, I just don’t see any difference,” he admitted.
“It’s just more like, I’m more used to it. If that’s a good way to say, you know?
“I’m relaxed, I’m calm, I know what I’m going to do. And I’m going to do it the best way possible, as always, and just chill and relax and enjoy the moment.”
Rodriguez, who brought a specially decorated championship belt to the dais with him at the UFC Apex, said that despite his relaxed demeanor, he is aware of the scale of the challenge ahead of him, and how important defeating Volkanovski would be.
It could also be a special night for Mexican MMA, with reigning flyweight champion Brandon Moreno also set to put his title on the line in the co-main event at T-Mobile Arena.
“Yeah, it feels like a special moment, of course,” he said.
“We we have been working for this moment for a long time. But regardless, this is a special moment for not only Brandon and I, but the Mexican people and all the Mexican fighters fighting this discard. We’re individuals, right? We’re like, fighting in our own ways. And even though we’re a team – we’re a Mexican team – we’re looking for our own legacy, you know? And I’m just happy to be part of what somebody else is doing, as well.”
Rodriguez’s bout with Volkanovski will see him face off against a man considered by many as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world. And while he acknowledges the Australian’s abilities, he wouldn’t commit to saying that the defending champion is the best fighter he’s prepared for so far in his career.
“Man, I don’t know,” he said.
“I can see Alexander Volkanovski is really good. He’s really talented, explosive. He has the ability, all the things that you guys already know. I don’t really have to repeat every time the same, because you guys know already what’s up with him.
“I just think this game is about styles, you know? What style beats what style, or what guy has the best day (on) the day of the fight.”
Rodriguez may have respect for Volkanovski’s achievements, but “El Pantera” is quietly confident that he has the tools to succeed where the rest of the UFC featherweight division has failed.
“I just think it’s gonna be really difficult for him to beat me,” he said.
“He probably thinks it’s gonna be easier. I don’t know. He’s my style is completely different to what many people think. Not only because of what you can see from outside, but just being in front of me in the cage is difficult. This is hard for anybody, you know.
“Of course, there are many styles that can neutralize or control the style that I have, but I have been working on my weaknesses, to make them like strength. And that’s why I’m at this point right now facing Alexander Volkanovski for the undisputed belt.”
And the 30-year-old said that winning the undisputed title would carry extra significance, as it would represent a dream fulfilled for the man who started out on his MMA career back in 2011.
“It will mean a lot to me, as I was thinking about this not long ago. How many people can truly talk to themselves inside their heads and say, ‘I have accomplished what I dreamed of one day. I truly did it.’
“I make it happen, because I believe in myself, in my skills, in my team, and the people around me. I can make it happen. So, saying that to myself, that’s the biggest achievement. It has no price tag, and that’s what I like about this game.”