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‘I’m going to be the next challenger’, Marina Rodriguez expects title shot with win at UFC Vegas 64

Rodriguez is aiming for the winner of Carla Esparza and Zhang Weili. 

Marina Rodriguez during media day for UFC Vegas 64.
Marina Rodriguez during media day for UFC Vegas 64.
Photo by Amy Kaplan/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Marina Rodriguez wants her first UFC championship opportunity after she beats Amanda Lemos at UFC Vegas 64 on Saturday.

Following a split decision loss to reigning UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza, Rodriguez has rattled off four consecutive wins. She thought her most recent win — a split decision against Yan Xiaonan — was enough to get Esparza in her first defense. The ‘Cookie Monster’ agreed, going as far as vouching for her former opponent, who she said has ‘proven herself’ after beating ‘top-level competition’ in her past appearances.

Despite the cosign from the champion, UFC president Dana White said Rodriguez was close to contention. And the best way to emerge as a new No. 1 contender was to fight — and win — one more time, so the Brazilian was booked against Lemos.

Rodriguez praised Lemos as a ’very tough’ opponent at her media day appearance on Wednesday, but was still confident she could get the win and secure herself the winner of Esparza and Zhang Weili next.

“I’m very confident that I defeat Amanda, no matter how, I’m going to be the next challenger,” said Rodriguez (video provided by MMA Junkie). “If everything goes perfectly, I’m going to be there to see this fight.”

Esparza and Weili are expected to share the Octagon in the co-main event of UFC 281, the pay-per-view scheduled for Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden. Should she see her hand raised against Lemos, Rodriguez intends to be there cageside and gather intel for her next fight.

As for who she sees as the winner of Esparza vs. Weili, the No. 3 strawweight is leaning towards ‘Magnum,’ but knows Esparza can shock the world again.

“Well, it looks like Weili,” said Rodriguez. “She’s well-rounded as a fighter, but it’s MMA. There’s a surprise effect in every single fight, like when Carla defeated Rose [Namajunas]. But for me, to be honest, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is I’m going to be there. I’m going to be ready.”

UFC Vegas 64 goes down on Sat., Nov. 5, at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas.