“I think this is one of those opportunities that you see when, like, the nobody goes against the somebody,” Rodriguez told reporters, including MMA Junkie, at Wednesday’s media day at the UFC Apex. “This is going to be one of them cases where that nobody becomes a somebody. I feel like I’m very underestimated and underrated in this in the welterweight division, you know? And I feel like this is an opportunity to show everybody what I’m really made of.”
Rodriguez (15-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) and Lee (18-6 MMA, 11-6 UFC) meet on the ESPN-broadcast main card of Saturday’s event at the UFC Apex. Lee was originally slated to face the undefeated Sean Brady, but when injury pulled that matchup apart, Rodriguez volunteered to step in as a replacement.
“After the last fight, there was a big question, like, ‘What’s next? Who’s next?’” Rodriguez said. “Opportunity came up – big-ass name, big opportunity.”
A former UFC interim title challenger, Lee has been competing in the promotion for more than seven years, banking several headlining slots along the way. Meanwhile, Rodriguez debuted for the UFC just 18 months ago but has made some noise in that time and believes he’s primed for a breakout moment.
To be successful, he’ll likely be forced to deal with Lee’s superior wrestling game, but Rodriguez says that’s nothing new. After all, he had been preparing to fight Abubakar Nurmagomedov in July before ultimately being paired with Preston Parsons.
“At the end of the day, I feel like I’m a way better striker than him,” Rodriguez said. “He may have some challenges on the feet with the wrestling. Everybody’s like, ‘Oh, man, he’s going to take you down,’ this and that – but, you know, I don’t care about that, bro. My whole career I’ve been training for dudes trying to take me down because my hands are so good, you know? I mean, that last fight camp, I was supposed to fight the Russian, and if I was scared about wrestling or takedowns, I wouldn’t try to fight that guy, you know? So, Kevin Lee is just another wrestler who’s going to try to take me down once I start to put it on him.”
A victory would give Rodriguez a three-fight winning streak in the UFC’s stacked welterweight division, not to mention bring him to an impressive 12-1 over his past 13 overall matchups – and give him a signature name on that list.
The 24-year-old “D-Rod” knows what’s at stake, and with Lee returning from a 17-month layoff and moving up a weight class in the process, Rodriguez plans on capitalizing on the moment.
“My job is to stay ready and prepared for these short-notice little fights that pop up and opportunities,” Rodriguez said. “I feel great. I’m in my prime. I’m on a roll right now. I got great momentum, and I feel like all that’s going to play come into play.
“I’ve been active. He hasn’t, you know? So I’ve been back-to-back hard fight camps, tough fights, and I feel like that’s going to show. That has a lot to do with how mentally focused I am in this fight, so I’m ready.”
To see the full interview with Rodriguez, check out the video above.
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