MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — Marina Rodriguez predicts a life-changing night for her at UFC Uruguay.
The undefeated strawweight prospect is set to enter the Octagon on Saturday night Montevideo, Uruguay, against Tecia Torres, and believes that the high-profile nature of the bout will bring more eyeballs to her with a decisive victory in Uruguay.
Rodriguez stopped Maria Oliveira with a standing knockout to sign with the UFC after Dana White’s Contender Series last August. Six months later after fighting to a majority draw with Randa Markos, Rodriguez scored her first UFC win by taking out former WSOF champion Jessica Aguilar via decision.
“That moment was like a relief, a weight coming off my shoulders,” Rodriguez told MMA Fighting. “I felt like I proved we’re fit to fight in the biggest fight promotion in the world. The emotions were high. In fact, when the final bell rang I finally relaxed and started to feel the pain of my broken arm. I was happy but also in pain [laughs]. I was happy to win all three rounds in decisive fashion with a broken arm and knowing that I’m capable of winning despite the difficulties.
“Everybody knows the level is much higher in the UFC. I know I still have much to evolve, but I can fight any opponent. Every athlete dreams of connecting one punch and getting a KO and I know that time will come and we will steal the show in the UFC, but I’m in no hurry. Our goal is to fight well and evolve each time so I can always fight the best. That’s happening step by step, and that’s important for me.”
Rodriguez’s opponent at UFC Uruguay, Torres, is currently on a three-fight skid in the UFC, but those defeats came against a future champion (Jessica Andrade), a former champion (Joanna Jedrzejczyk), and the next title contender (Weili Zhang). For Rodriguez, ”Tecia is an extremely tough fighter who only lost to the best of the division.”
“It’s not like she’s fought badly, but she’s in a down moment in her career,” Rodriguez said. “I’m here to fight anyone, anytime. It’s gonna be a war regardless of who’s on the other side. I trained really hard so I make no mistakes and do my best in there. I obviously won’t reveal my strategy, but I see myself using my aggressiveness to connect strikes that will hurt her. That’s what I’m focused on, landing strikes that hurt.”
Rodriguez is in no rush to climb the 115-pound rankings right now, but a win over Torres could definitely speed things up.
“Tecia still is among the best,” Rodriguez said. “She’s ranked No. 8 in the division, so if I beat the No. 8 that will definitely raise my name in the promotion and the whole world will know me this time. Defeating an experienced, tough and top-10 athlete will do that for me.”
The 32-year-old talent is confident she’s championship material, and UFC legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who was sitting next to Dana White when Rodriguez scored her Contender Series win a year ago, sees more room for growth.
“Marina Rodriguez is great, has personalty, is aggressive,” “Minotauro” Nogueira told MMA Fighting. “I think Marina still has a lot more to show than what she did in her first UFC fights. She did great in her last one, better than the first, against someone who was willing to trade with her, but I think she will still mature and evolve inside the Octagon.
“She has a ton of responsibility because she was a phenom before joining the UFC, and I believe she will get even better and showcase her high-level muay thai in the UFC.”
To hear those words from a legend like “Minotauro”, a former UFC and PRIDE heavyweight champion, gives Rodriguez more confidence going into the fight in Montevideo.
“‘Minotauro’ helped me a lot when I got to the Contender Series,” Rodriguez said. “He looked at Dana White and said, ‘pay attention to this girl, she’s different.’ He’s right, I still have a lot to evolve and that evolution will come inside the Octagon, getting more mature after each battle. That’s why I’m here. I’m not even close to fighting for the belt, I want to fight the best and make the difference in the UFC. I’ll evolve step by step and prove that the UFC is right for giving me these fights.”