The UFC middleweight division has Israel Adesanya sitting atop top the mountain and a number of Brazilian talents looking to enter the rankings in the near future. Gregory Rodrigues is one of them, but he’s not worried about getting rushed up the ladder.
Aside from Paulo Costa in the top 5 and Andre Muniz looking to crack the top 10 with his upcoming bout with Uriah Hall in April, Brazil currently has Alex Pereira, Bruno Santos, and Rodolfo Vieira battling for attention outside the top 15 at 185 pounds.
Rodrigues is 2-0 so far in the UFC with a “Fight of the Night” bonus in his most recent victory, but hasn’t gotten the same level of hype as some of his countrymen ahead of his third octagon appearance in Saturday’s UFC Vegas 49 clash against Armen Petrosyan, the brother of legendary kickboxer Giorgio Petrosyan.
“Every fight that goes, depending on the victory, it puts you in a different position [in the UFC],” Rodrigues told MMA Fighting. “I just turned 30 and I still have a lot of work to be done. I’m not in a hurry. I have no rush to be in this hype. I’m doing a good job, a solid work, so I’ll stay at the top when I get there. I’m walking step by step.”
“Robocop” made his first Zuffa appearance in September 2020 when he lost by knockout to Jordan Williams at Dana White’s Contender Series. Rodrigues considered retiring from MMA after that fight, but ultimately secured a deal with LFA. In a span of three months, Rodrigues then stopped Al Matavao in his LFA debut, knocked out Josh Fremd to win the company’s middleweight belt, and won a decision over Dusko Todorovic in his UFC debut.
“They already see me, I’m a dangerous guy for the division,” Rodrigues said. “I’m ready to fight anyone. I like the fights the UFC books for me. They put me one step after the other. The challenge gets bigger and bigger, but I like challenges. I’m driven by challenges and that motivates me to continue doing my best.”
After his decision win over Todorovic in June 2021, Rodrigues returned four months later to stop Jun Yong Park in a war of attrition at UFC Vegas 41.
Now booked against a fellow DWCS alum, Rodrigues feels as if UFC is investing heavily into Contender Series fighters, so he’s confident it’s going to be an excellent fight against a veteran striker who holds 70 wins in kickboxing and over 90 documented bouts.
“He’s a kickboxer with good striking, but I’ve been evolving a lot on my standup,” he said. “I have a great weapon on my favor — jiu-jitsu — and I believe it will be the key in this fight. But you have to be ready to mix things up and I’ve been working on that. My friends at Sanford MMA, my coaches, ‘Durinho’ [Gilbert Burns] helped me a lot during this transition so we could put on great performances in the UFC.
“I match up well with anyone because my standup is great, my hands are heavy. I can either knock this guy or submit him. … I’m ready to knock him out, I’m confident on the feet. I like to reinvent myself. If he thinks I’m just a jiu-jitsu guy, he’ll go down with my hands.”