What Yair Rodriguez learned from Max Holloway loss entering UFC Long Island headliner

New York Post
New York Post

Yair Rodriguez (13-3, seven finishes) will headline the UFC’s return to Long Island on Saturday afternoon as he faces Brian Ortega (15-2, 10 finishes) in the main event of the ABC-aired fight card (2 p.m. ET). Rodriguez, who said Monday that he was promised a title shot against featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski with a win at UBS Arena in Elmont, recently spoke with The Post’s Scott Fontana for this week’s Post Fight Interview.

Q: You’re coming off a fight against Max Holloway in which, while you didn’t win, it seemed like it might have actually earned you some fans. Does that take any of the sting out from the loss?

A: My family and friends and stuff like that, they feel the same way: “It was like a really good fight. You got a lot of experience.” But that’s not really what you say when you lose (laughs). Maybe I earned some more fans after that fight because, a lot of people, they didn’t know if I was even ready to fight Max. After I fought him, I kind of showed them different. But I still figured out that I had a lot of work to put [into] a lot of parts of my game, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m happy because it was a war, but not because I lost, of course.
Yair Rodriguez (r.) punches Max Holloway during a UFC fight on Nov. 13, 2021.
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Q: What do you think you learned from the fight?

A: More than anything, in the strategy, bring a better strategy every time I fight and stick to it. You can have a pretty good strategy, and like Mike Tyson said, you have a strategy until you get punched in the face. It doesn’t really matter. You have to be able to be like water, like Bruce Lee said. Sometimes, I try to take that concept instead. I try to do whatever I feel when I’m fighting, instead of having to do the strategy. But I think for my next fight, especially, it’s going to be important to have a really good strategy and stick to it.

Q: You’ve got a long history of delivering Fights of the Night. Do you take pride in being a fighter the fans can count on to deliver fireworks?

A: Yeah, I like that. A lot of people support me because of that, because I bring an interesting style when I’m fighting. And I guess a lot of people like to see that because it’s not very usual to see. I know there’s a lot of good fighters that bring new stuff every time. But I don’t know. Probably, there’s something about myself that people liked a lot. And of course, it’s something that makes me feel really good.

Q: You’re going to be fighting in front of fans for the first time in almost three years. Did you miss the fans when you fought last year at UFC Apex?

A: I just think it’s different. I kind of miss the experience of fighting without people, used to have a different feeling. Not because I don’t miss fans; of course, I missed the fans. It’s a really, really important part of the fight itself, on how the fight goes or plays because you have your people and your family. Everybody’s supporting and rooting. And you can know what’s going on when the fight is going by the screaming of people. It’s like a pointer [or indicator]. It was a really good pointer of what’s going on in the fight.

Q: Brian Ortega’s parents are Mexican, and he’s proud of his heritage. You’re a proud Mexican. Do you get the sense there’s increased excitement in your country for this fight?

A: I have seen the comments of people. People, of course, are happy because the fight is going on. But everybody’s like, “No! Mexico against Mexico.” This or that. Fighting a Mexican for me is just as tough as fighting anyone, but I know what Mexicans are made of, and I’m sure Brian is gonna be a tough one.
Brian Ortega (l.) punches Alexander Volkanovski (r.) at UFC 266 on Sept. 25, 2021.
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Q: Have you and Brian interacted over the years? How do you two get along? What do you think of him?

A: Yeah, we kind of get along. We’re not best friends or anything like that, but we’re homies. We have hung out in the past before. We actually raced one time together in the Mint 400 in Las Vegas. We had good experiences. We talked in the past a couple of times. And every time, he’s been at my fights supporting [me]. I’ve been at his fights supporting [him]. And he’s kind of that fight you don’t really want to take, but you have to. This is where I’m at with Brian.

Q: You haven’t been able to compete as frequently in recent years. Are you hoping to become more active, maybe fight two or three times a year?

A: I wish I can do that. Sometimes, your body or injuries or things happen in your career. I always want to fight. It’s not like I ever wanted to be out for so long because this is just a small window that I have on time for me to fight. I’m 29; this year, I’m gonna become 30 years old. And I know I’m getting there.

Q: You shared on Instagram you recently made your acting debut. How did that go?

A: I was kind of being funny. I was with “Cowboy” [Donald Cerrone], and he invited us, my buddy and I, to be part of a movie; just play a small role in the movie. It was just fun for me, the experience, but I’m sure I’m not a good actor or anything like that. It was just fun to be part of, and I thank Cowboy for the opportunity. But no, I don’t think I’m made for that (laughs).
Yair Rodriguez
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Q: How big is the part?

A: I think I’m gonna be in the movie for 10 seconds or something like that.

Q: Favorite movie?

A: “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Q: Favorite outdoor activity?

A: I love motocross; everything that has to do with ATVs. Also hiking or running. I love swimming.

Q: Favorite video game?

A: “[Call of Duty:] Warzone.” I play once in a while. I don’t play with many people. I only play with my brother.

Q: Do you recall your first experience watching MMA?

A: I was really young. I was with my cousins [next door], and he used to bring me over to his house and my brother and my other cousins. And we used to watch these fights on Pride. Basically, no rules were made still. I used to watch Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Cro Cop and all these guys fight back in the day. And we actually used to fight [by our] houses, in the parking lot or stuff like that. We used to bring friends and just fight for fun, just because we watched all these videos (laughs).

Q: What’s the coolest technique in combat sports?

A: I like flashy techniques like jumping, aerial techniques. But I also like submissions. Something that I really, really like a lot is projecting people, judo throws and all that kind of stuff. It’s hard for me to say. Maybe kicking; I love kicking.

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