The first UFC main event of 2017 will be a matchup between an MMA legend and one of the most exciting young contenders in the sport. Former lightweight and welterweight champion B.J. Penn (16-10-2) has zero wins in his last four outings, and hasn’t won a fight since 2010. For perspective, TUF Latin America winner Yair Rodriguez (9-1) didn’t make his professional MMA debut until 2011.
For as much as Penn has looked a shell of his former self in recent years, he’s still never been knocked down, and has never been submitted in his illustrious career. However, as Rodriguez told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, he believes he can submit the former BJJ world champion.
"If he thinks he's going to take me down and submit me there,” Rodriguez said, “he's going to have a big surprise.
“If he takes me down and thinks he’s gonna submit me, well I will submit him.”
Rodriguez is currently the #10 ranked featherweight contender, and while the 24-year-old Mexican is confident that his submission game is strong enough to tap out Penn, he has “a lot of respect for BJ,” but that “now is my time.” For the record, Rodriguez has won just two fights by submission, both on the regional scene, as opposed to the UFC.
UFC Fight Night: Penn vs. Rodriguez takes place inside the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona on Sunday, January 15th. The FS1 main card airs live at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT.
Video of the interview begins at the 1:16:23 timestamp.