In early 2021, former featherweight champion Max Holloway defeated Calvin Cattar in what was practically a one-sided beatdown. Later on, the Hawaiian credited his decision to forego sparring sessions as one of his keys to victory.
He also had this one important piece of advice for fellow fighters:
“Save y’all chickens right here. You guys only get one brain. Save it. You guys don’t need to do it. You sparred enough. You trained enough. You know how to punch someone. You know how to slip a punch. Why even take unnecessary damage before the main game, you know?”
Former opponent Yair Rodriguez has apparently been doing the same thing. In a recent interview with MMA Junkie, “El Pantera” revealed applying the same approach to his training for a while now.
“(I’m not sparring), and that’s something I’ve been saying for many years now. “I’ve shared it with my coaches and my training partners, and I always tell them, ‘Don’t you dare touch my face. If you hit me, I’m going to hit you,’” he said.
“That’s how injuries start. That’s the reason why you don’t make it to the fights because you go in there, and you want to show off in the gym with someone else and then there are injuries.
“So no, I’m not interested in taking hits during training. They don’t pay for that. They pay me to fight once I’m up in the cage. I try to save myself from as much impact as I can possibly have to my head.”
The 29-year-old Rodriguez has had his fair share of wars in the Octagon over the years, which is why he’s taking this less detrimental approach. He’s since focused on conditioning and the skills and knowledge he’s amassed in his years of martial arts.
“I’ve been strengthening my body a lot more, lifting more weights, doing better conditioning in ways that don’t put too much wear on my body. That’s my main focus,” he said.
“I’m not going to forget how to fight. I have many, many years in combat sports – I’ve been in this since I was 5 years old across many sports. So now I just focus on the technical, tactical, and physical. It’s basically knowing what to do, what not to do, and building up my endurance for the fight.”
Rodriguez will headline this weekend’s UFC on ABC card in Long Island, New York against fellow top-five contender Brian Ortega.