When news broke earlier this month that young featherweight prospect, Yair Rodriguez had been cut from the UFC, the MMA world was surprised, to say the least.
The 10-2 Ultimate Fighter: Latin America winner, Rodriguez last fought in May of last year when he suffered his first UFC loss to former lightweight champion and perennial top featherweight, Frankie Edger.
After the time off and multiple fight offer declines according to UFC president, Dana White, the UFC decided to release Rodriguez from his contract if he wasn’t willing to cooperate and fight who he was offered.
Today Rodriguez shared in detail on the MMA Hour what exactly happened to cause such a surprising result.
“I talked to [UFC matchmaker] Sean Shelby and he told me, ‘What do you have in your mind?’ I told him I think I at least deserve a top 10 [opponent]. No matter what happens, I think I deserve a top 10 [opponent] just because of what I already showed in the UFC. I’m 6-1 in the UFC. Not all the fighters in the UFC have the same record as me. I know I’m still a rising star for the sport or whatever, but I know I have done a lot already. I know [how many] fans I have inside the sport and I don’t think I have to show anybody that I’m not afraid.
They said Ricardo Lamas, then I said yes to Ricardo Lamas. I accepted to fight Ricardo Lamas, but then I later learned that he didn’t take the fight with me. He decided to fight [Mirsad] Bektic instead. Then, during that process, the Zabit fight was causing a lot of hype on social media… I was like, alright, this is going to be great. I started looking at the big potential for this fight. And it was kind of my fault that I…like a week after Lamas declined the fight, Sean Shelby called me again and he said, ‘Hey, the Lamas fight is still back open. It’s back open for you to fight.’ And after I was asking for any top 10 [opponent] and they didn’t want to give it to me, and then Lamas took Bektic instead of me, I was kind of disappointed. Just kind of disappointed, I’ll say that.
I started looking at this other fight with Zabit. It was making a lot of sense for me because of the stylistic matchup and stuff. We saw big potential of renegotiating my contract. There was a negotiation that if they wanted me to fight him in [Los Angeles at UFC 227], which, I said I’ll fight him in LA, of course, but [only] if you pay me more, because I had been saying for the last year that I wanted to fight a top 10 [opponent]. I’m not picking my opponents. I’m just saying I deserve a top 10. Anyone. I actually asked for ‘Korean Zombie’ [Chan Sung Jung] as well, but they told me he wasn’t ready, even though he posted some stuff on Twitter saying that he wanted to fight Frankie.
I was like, okay, I’ll fight Zabit if you give me more money in LA because I understand how big of an event it is, and they said no. I was like, okay, if you don’t want to give me more money to fight him in LA, why don’t you give [the fight] to me in Russia, and there’s no need to do any negotiation for that. I want him in Russia. Why? Because he was calling me out. I’m the guy who, I never say much, I just act. I don’t have to be talking about this on my social media.
They didn’t even want to give it to me in Russia. Then I was like, okay, you don’t want to give me more money to fight him in LA, you don’t want to give me a top-10 [opponent]. Now I’m looking…now I see how the things are going.
I told them I will accept anyone in the top 10. I don’t need a negotiation for a top 10 [opponent]. This guy was No. 13 when I was No. 7. I just got beat by Frankie. It’s just one fight. I’m 6-1 in the UFC. I just think that’s what I deserved, and they didn’t want to give it to me. That was more about respect, respecting myself.”
One of the several reasons that Rodriguez’ release came as such a surprise was because of the fact that this isn’t the first time something like this has happened without the same repercussion.
At just age 25, the Mexico born, Rodriguez still has more than enough potential to be one of the very best in the world and whoever he ends up with will appreciate his talents greatly.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 5/21/2018