Yair Rodriguez knows the man he is fighting this weekend may have some extra information on him, but he doesn’t care.
Rodriguez, a talented featherweight regarded as one of the most promising prospects in UFC, will be fighting former lightweight champion B.J. Penn in the main event of UFC Fight Night 103 this Sunday in Phoenix, Ariz. When this match up was first announced back in November, it caught many fans by surprise. Penn, while being a decorated legend in the sport, is still 38 years old and 1-5-1 in his past seven bouts, while Rodriguez is just 24 years old and undefeated in the promotion.
But the fans weren’t the only ones surprised with the match up. Rodriguez himself never imagined he’d be the one welcoming back “The Prodigy” from retirement.
“No, I never thought about it,” Rodriguez told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I think I heard him say that I asked for this fight, but I didn’t ask for this fight. The UFC offered me the fight and I accepted. So, it was kind of surprising like you said at the beginning, but now I’m just happy. Like I said, it’s a really big test for me, a huge opportunity.”
Penn, a veteran who’s trained at many different places throughout his career, has been preparing at JacksonWink in Albuquerque for his latest return to MMA competition. It’s only natural to think that this could present some issues for Rodriguez, as Rodriguez has trained with JacksonWink in the past, and the team knows his strengths and weaknesses as a fighter. But Rodriguez doesn’t care, because he wants to fight the best version on Penn.
“A lot of people think B.J. is done, but I’m not hoping for that. What kind of mentality is that?” Rodriguez said. “I’m hoping for the best B.J. Penn ever. I want to fight the best B.J Penn. Now that I know that he’s been training for a long time and he’s been training with people that know me very well, my friends actually, Cowboy (Donald Cerrone), Diego Sanchez, ‘Magician’ (John Dodson), Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn. All of those guys know me pretty well.
“They can tell him where I’m good, where I’m not, but I don’t really care. I’m a fighter and you have to be worried about me in many areas of this fighting game. I can grapple, I can wrestle, I can strike, and I don’t really give a f*ck. I’m just a fighter. I was born a fighter, I’ll be a fighter, and I’m a champion and I know I’m a champion already.”
The main reason why the Rodriguez doesn’t care about Penn training with JacksonWink is because he doesn’t see how any detailed information on him could change the outcome of the fight.
“I’m telling you, I’m a different kind of guy,” Rodriguez said. “A different kind of animal. I can call coach Greg right now and tell him my strategy and it won’t make any difference. I’m ready for any situation. I’m an MMA fighter, bro. It’s what I do, it’s what I live for. This is what brings food to my table and I train everyday, seven days a week. Some people say, ‘oh, [Penn’s] going to take him down.’ Well, man, this is what we do. We take the sh*t down and we grapple and we strike, so I’m not afraid of nobody. This is what we do, bro. The thing is that I do it better than other guys.”