After Yair Rodriguez' beatdown of UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn at UFC Fight Night 103, many fans hyped the Mexican-born fighter as a future UFC champion.
The budding talent was looking to make a statement against former lightweight champion and wily veteran Frankie Edgar at UFC 211, but things went horribly wrong.
Edgar, 35, made mincemeat of Rodriguez, taking the young prospect down at will and battering him with ground and pound. Ringside officials called a stop to the contest after the second round, after Rodriguez' face was morphed into something resembling a Guillermo del Toro Pan's Labyrinth prop.
The Valle Flow Striking product said all of his fears came true on that night, losing in the most important fight of his career.
“All my fears came true that day because I lost,” Rodriguez told Chris Taylor of BJPenn.com. “It was the most important fight of my career, because I knew that fight was enough to put me right there for a title shot. So now that I went through that stuff, I look back and I see all the things that I’ve been through, and I notice some changes in my attitude and my training that I didn’t notice at the time, and nobody told me [about]. I thought that it was good, and I kept on going like that. It’s not a bad thing, it’s not like I stopped training or anything like that. I was actually going harder than normal. I just centered myself on being a fighter, on being an animal, and I totally lost energy. I forgot about everything else. I let small things bother me all the time.”
“You get experience, going through all this process,” he continued. “Now that I’ve learned from it, I think I’ll be good after it. I think I’m going to come back stronger. Things have changed a lot from that fight. I think it was something good.”
Despite his loss, at just 24-years-old Rodriguez is still a hot prospect glowing on the UFC's radar and could rebound even stronger in his next bout.
The striking dynamo has beaten the likes of Penn, Andre Fili and Alex Caceres and believes he still has what it takes to capture UFC featherweight gold.
“I truly believe that I can do it,” Rodriguez said about winning a UFC world title. “After the fight, whenever I went to the hospital to check my eye, I looked at my coach and I told him, ‘why does this happen to me,’ and I was crying. ‘Why does this happen to me? It’s the only thing that I do, coach. It’s the only thing that I do.’ And then my Mom and my Dad were there, and they were trying to hug me and stuff like that, and I told them ‘stop, I’m not supposed to lose.’ I give my all to this career and to this life and I’ve sacrificed a lot of things that a lot of people aren’t willing to do. You have to be willing to acknowledge this stuff.”
There is no questioning Rodriguez's heart, and the Illinois-based fighter will look to spring back into the winner's column in his next fight.