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MEXICO CITY – It’s been 10 months since Yair Rodriguez hit Chan Sung Jung with one of the most viral knockouts in MMA history.
Saturday night, Rodriguez (11-2 MMA, 7-1 UFC) will finally return when he takes on Jeremy Stephens in the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 17, which takes place Saturday at Mexico City Arena. The card streams on ESPN+.
“El Pantera” was briefly linked to a fight in Mexico against Zabit Magomedsharipov at the event, but the bout fell through. The two featherweights were previously scheduled to face in 2018. Rodriguez isn’t sure why the contest didn’t end up taking place, but he said he was pushing for it.
“I don’t know what happened,” Rodriguez said. “There were some negotiations. As probably you can see, in the first interviews for this fight, I didn’t want to fight Jeremy Stephens because he’s lower than me in the rankings and he’s a really tough opponent. No disrespect.
“I was really pushing for it, but I don’t know what happened and I don’t really understand why,” he continued. “They end up pushing this fight, so I was like, ‘Okay, I can’t just let this opportunity go in front of my people. I’m just going to take the fight and go.”
Stephens hasn’t shied away from sending verbal jabs Rodriguez’s way. In an interview with MMA Junkie on Wednesday, Stephens laid into Rodriguez. Despite his opponent’s efforts, Rodriguez said he isn’t fazed. Rodriguez decided to analyze Stephens for his in-cage abilities, not extracurriculars.
“I think he’s a really aggressive guy,” Rodriguez said. “Whenever he comes, he comes to fight. He’s always pushing forward. I think he has a lot of experience. He almost triples the number of fights that I have, so for me that makes him better at the sport. He’s pretty tough and pretty strong, but I barely have eight fights in the UFC.”
Stephens (28-16 MMA, 15-15 UFC) has publicly stated he believes the fight will end in a violent knockout. Both men are known for their fight-ending abilities. While they may disagree on whose arm will be raised after the fight, Rodriguez and Stephens agree the judges’ won’t be needed.
“I think the fight is going to be shorter than five rounds,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t think the fight is going to go five rounds. He’s really aggressive and we know anything can happen, so if I stay (still) he can connect (on me).
“I’m going to be smart and keep him moving. That exactly is my advantage. I’ll take the opportunity and if I see a clean shot, I’m going to take him hard as (expletive), that’s it.”
You can hear more from Rodriguez in the video linked above.
News | MMA Junkie