Yair Rodriguez came up short in the biggest fight of his MMA career. But the up-and-coming fighter remains optimistic.
The Mexican featherweight prospect took on former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar on the main card of UFC 211 in Dallas, in a bout pushed as a young star vs. a cagey veteran. Edgar didn’t hesitate to wrestle his way into top position and ground-and-pound Rodriguez for most of two rounds.
Entering the third and final round, the doctor overseeing the matchup stopped the bout, as Rodriguez’s left eye was badly swollen. The stoppage not only signaled defeat for Rodriguez, but also marked his first loss in the promotion and the end of an eight-fight win streak.
The result didn’t sit well with Rodriguez at first, but despite the setback, “El Pantera” is already moving on.
“To be honest, bro, I was crying after the fight,” Rodriguez said on The MMA Hour. “I was mad at myself, I was just disappointed. I was like, ‘what the f*ck happened to you out there, Yair? You f*cking worked for this,’ and my father always told me, ‘don’t beat yourself up,’ but I was like, ‘f*ck that, man, you’re the one that told me I was a winner, and I lost.’ I’m a winner, I trained for this, I put my life on the line every time I stepped in the gym.
“So I was just crying and angry because I don’t like to lose, nobody likes to lose. But the thing is that if you lose, you have to learn from it, you know? I’ve been winning and losing all my life. My father taught me how to win and how to lose, and I’m always respectful no matter what happens. A loss doesn’t mean anything. It just means that you’re going to learn from it, and it won’t happen to you ever again. And if it does happen to you again, you’re doing stuff wrong, so change it again, and keep moving on.”
The fight with Edgar was Rodriguez’ first test against the elite of the 145-pound division, as the 24-year-old fighter had never faced ranked opposition prior to the fight. Regardless of the result, Rodriguez believes the fight was a good experience for him, as feels he has acquired a gauge of what it takes to be a top dog at featherweight.
“It was great for me because now I see the level,” Rodriguez explained. “I know what you guys are talking about when you see the level of high wrestling, so I feel it now, and now it’s time to work on all that I have to work on. You can ask anyone you want, I’m better than that, simple as that. I work harder than that. Like, whenever I tell you guys I work every single day and I don’t do other things, this is true. I just think sh*t happens. I guess this is a learning experience, and I’m not going to put in any excuses. He was better than me that night and that’s it, so just keep moving on.”
With his standing as one of the biggest and hottest Mexican stars in MMA, it would make sense for Rodriguez to fight at the upcoming UFC event in Mexico, which is set to take place Aug. 5. But Rodriguez wants to take some time off to focus on fixing some of the holes in his game, rather than getting a quick turnaround just to compete in his home country.
“I want to take it easy for now,” Rodriguez explained. “I want to learn and fix all the holes in my game, the way I always fix them. I’m not going to fix them because I lost this fight, it’s just I always fix the holes.
“I just want to keep myself in the gym learning, keep getting better the way I’ve been doing. My family is waiting for me in Mexico with some projects, so I need to go to Mexico take care of those projects, take care of my family, and just be more conscious on my work here because my mind is here and there, just trying to fix everything from here [the U.S.] and it’s hard. The work never stops, you know? But now that I have this time, I want to try to use it to go with my family, fix the stuff that I need to fix, and just go from there.”