Yair Rodriguez’s return to the Octagon after more than a year on the sidelines proved to be a rewarding one for him. Not only was he able to somehow erase the stigma left by the beating put on him by Frankie Edgar, but “El Pantera” also scored an emphatic last-second finish of Chan Sung Jung that easily merits Knockout of the Year honors.
But prior to the highlight-reel ending, both Rodriguez and “The Korean Zombie” engaged in a 25-minute back-and-forth battle on the feet. According to Yair’s coach Israel “Izzy” Martinez, these kinds of wars are necessary for a fighter’s growth.
“We believe every fighter needs one of those,” Martinez told Luke Thomas Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour (via MMA Fighting). “It’s one of those things you tell a young athlete, you tell a young fighter, even the older guys: You need to get your ass kicked to kinda be woken up a little bit, and you need to go through some dirty fights, some trenches.
“But you don’t need to do that every day. You don’t need to get punched in the head every day. And that’s one of those fights that we’re gonna have in our bag and we’re always going to be able to pull out all the things we’re learned from that, but there’s no way we want that type of fight again.”
With the win and major confidence boost for Rodriguez, Martinez is now looking at their next options. A fight with Zabit Magomedsharipov, he says, is part of the conversation, as well as a rematch with Frankie Edgar.
“I’d like to see the Zabit fight. I’d like to see him run it back with Frankie Edgar — no disrespect to Frankie Edgar, but he’s a different animal now,” Martinez said. “I really believe that. He’s in a great frame of mind, but you know what, I’m also not about pushing these fighters into positions where they’re not ready, and I think that if Yair can stay [matched up against] somebody in the top 10, high top 10s, 10 to 15, anybody would work. But if it’s up to Yair, he wants them all.”
The Korean Zombie took home an extra $50,000 for Fight of the Night honors, while Rodriguez bagged a total of $100,000, both for FOTN and Performance of the Night.