Amanda Ribas and her team have been very vocal about the idea of testing her striking against muay Thai specialist Marina Rodriguez at UFC 257, but the Dana White’s Contender Series product isn’t buying it.
Sure, Rodriguez would love to get a chance to stand and trade with the rising strawweight star on Jan. 23. But ultimately, she believes Ribas’ team is just trying to trick her into expecting no takedowns when they enter the eight-sided cage in Abu Dhabi.
“I’ll be very happy if that happens because that’s my game, my roots, and I’ll be at home,” Rodriguez said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I’ll be able to showcase my striking against someone that’s willing to go for it. It’s a risk, one hand can land and you go down, but if she really comes to trade on the feet, it’s going to be a banger and fans will go crazy.”
Rodriguez joined the UFC after steamrolling RIZIN veteran Maria Oliveira in just three minutes on DWCS in 2018. She went on to build a 2-1-2 record in the company with wins over Jessica Aguilar and Tecia Torres sandwiched between draws against Randa Markos and Cynthia Calvillo.
The Thai-Brazil talent now aims to get back on track after losing a split decision to Carla Esparza in July, just days after Ribas tapped Paige VanZant in Abu Dhabi. Rodriguez won’t be surprised if she has to use her takedown defense Saturday.
“Maybe the first hand lands and she feels it and runs for plan B right away, which is grappling, her biggest strength,” Rodriguez said. “And I’m already used to that, because I’ve only fought grapplers since my UFC debut. I’ve never been submitted, not even close. Fans will watch a great fight if she comes to trade.
“I really believe she’s coming to trade with me, and I believe my hand will connect first and she will feel it, she might get scared, and then I’ll control her and get the finish, hurting her until I get the knockout before the end of the second round. I’m ready to defend every attack to keep the fight on the feet.”
Ribas was originally expected to face Esparza in December, but that bout never came to fruition. Ribas was then paired up versus Michelle Waterson in January before Rodriguez eventually stepped in as a replacement. Rodriguez reveals she started her camp four months ago, back when Ribas was still booked against Esparza. She expectedsomething would eventually happen with that matchup and open a spot for her.
UFC ambassador Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has had high hopes for Rodriguez ever since she joined the company through DWCS, and UFC 257 features a clash of two Brazilian strawweight prospects in Abu Dhabi.
Rodriguez believes the UFC hype machine is pushing Ribas at full force as the next big thing coming out of Brazil, and she aims to ruin those plans Saturday.
“Fans think the UFC is really pushing those athletes, but no one really makes all the way through because no one’s unbeatable,” she said. “Some undefeated athletes end up losing and fans end up getting disappointed, but the UFC always directs the ones they think will sell more pay-per-views, fighters who fans wanna watch.
“I know she’s hungry, she’s on a roll and the hype is up there, but I’m hungry, too. Everybody sees that when I’m inside the octagon. Even when I’m facing adversities, I’m always fighting back and coming out on top. The hungriest will win. We both trained really hard, I can’t say I’ve trained more than her and vice-versa, so we have to get in there and fight hard.”