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Marina Rodriguez raises hand for title fight after UFC Vegas 26, vows ‘five-round war’ with champ

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UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez v Waterson Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

With Michelle Waterson in the rearview mirror, Marina Rodriguez is game to face Xiaonan Yan or Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her next appearance.

“I would like to fight a couple more times this year, hopefully a top-three opponent next time around,” Rodriguez told reporters after her dominant win over Michelle Waterson in a flyweight headliner at UFC Vegas 26. “Yan is fighting [Carla] Esparza now. If she wins, that could be a very good fight if she’s available. Esparza is someone I’ve fought already, and quite recently, so it’s not a fight I’m not all that excited to do. Maybe one of us gets a belt and we can fight for the belt.

“Jedrzejczyk is a fight that I’ve always been looking forward to, and I think the fans are, too. If she’s back and considering fighting again, I’d be more than willing to fight her.”

Rodriguez, a resident of Florianopolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil, put another big name on her resume on Saturday and did it under far less than ideal circumstances. Visa troubles prompted her to take a daylong bus ride from her home town to the Brazilian consolate in Porto Alegre. She slept overnight in the city for a next-day appointment on Wednesday of fight week and immediately jumped on a plane to the U.S. after she was approved. From there, it was three more plane rides until she reached Las Vegas on Thursday.

“We landed here at noon and started cutting weight,” she said. “If it was at strawweight, there was no way we could do it.”

Rodriguez didn’t show any obvious road wear as she chased down Waterson over five rounds and repeatedly battered the UFC star. In the end, Waterson survived to the final bell, which was a slight letdown for the Brazilian striker.

“I came here to get the knockout if there was a chance, and she didn’t put the chance out there, Rodriguez said. “I tried to blitz at much as I could, but I couldn’t get the finish. That’s props to her.”

It did look like Waterson managed to injure Rodriguez with a well-placed head kick late in the fight; UFC commentators speculated she suffered a broken jaw. But Rodriguez’s manager said the damage wasn’t as severe as it seemed.

Going into the fight, Waterson was the ninth-ranked strawweight in the UFC’s rankings, a position that didn’t seem to benefit Rodriguez in a push for the title. But she remains optimistic about her immediate future, whether she has to beat a few more names – or take on champ Rose Namajunas.

“A lot of girls out there say they want to fight for the belt, but I’m here,” Rodriguez said. “I’m going to rest a week, get back to training, and my focus on training has always been to fight whoever the champion. If they need someone to fight for it, nobody’s willing, or whoever they want, I’m here. I’ll raise my hand. Give it to me. I know that I’m going to put out a five-round war with whoever has the belt. I’m going to be in their face and make it a war.”