Yair Rodriguez may be coming off a loss, but he’s apparently a win away from receiving his first ever UFC title shot.
The Mexican featherweight contender is set to take on two-time title challenger Brian Ortega in this Saturday’s UFC on ABC 3 main event on Long Island, New York. In an interview with Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, ‘El Pantera’ claims that the UFC has assured him that a win over Ortega means a showdown with champion Alexander Volkanovski.
“Yes, that has been said to me,” Rodriguez said when asked if he or his management has been told a win gets him a title shot. “That’s what we’re looking for. First things first, I’m going to win this fight and then give the champ some time to heal and, yeah, go for it. Right now let’s just take it step-by-step. First thing’s first July 16th, Brian Ortega.”
Rodriguez (13-3, 1 NC) dropped a very entertaining unanimous decision to Max Holloway last November, in what was arguably one of the best performances of his career even in defeat. That was his first fight since a three-round decision over Jeremy Stephens in their 2019 rematch. His career-best win was a dramatic, literal last-second KO of Chan Sung Jung with an elbow back in 2018.
We don’t know if Ortega also gets a title shot with a win, as he’s already lost to Volkanovski and that stands as his most recent fight. Either way, it looks like Josh Emmett may be left out in the cold despite a five-fight winning streak and sharing the #3 spot in the rankings with Yair.
As for what Rodriguez thought of Volkanovski’s five-round shutout of Max Holloway in their trilogy, he was quite complimentary of the featherweight king.
“Wow. That’s all I can say. He looked amazing,” Rodriguez said. “It was eye-opening for me, and I better get ready for that if I want to be the champion. If I want to be the champion I’m going to have to put some work because he’s tough. He’s really tough.”
Evidently he’s on the cusp of getting to face Volkanovski next, provided he takes care of ‘T-City’ on Saturday afternoon.