The drama and madness surrounding UFC 279 was unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Imagine what it was like for Daniel Rodriguez, who found himself right in the middle of the card switch-up after Khamzat Chimaev missed weight.
The 35-year-old California native accepted a new bout against Li Jingliang on 24 hours’ notice and earned a split decision victory over the highly respected Chinese star. The fight with “The Leech” was definitely a close one, but there wasn’t a doubt in Rodriguez’s mind that he had done enough to get his hand raised.
Some fans and some critics believed the fight should have gone in favor of Li, and those opinions fired Rodriguez up. He was frustrated that he allowed a fight to be close enough that there was even a debate but opted to let that feeling fuel him.
Rodriguez usually shrugs off outside noise, but after the craziness that took place at UFC 279, it was tough for him not to take some of the stuff fans were saying to heart.
“So far in my career I’ve tuned that s*** out,” Rodriguez told UFC.com. “But I decided to use the noise to motivate me a little more. People failed to consider the fact I wasn’t planning on fighting Li, who had a completely different body type and style than Kevin Holland. But I still accepted that fight on 24 hours’ notice.”
The fans didn’t show me the love that I thought I would get, even though it was a close fight, and it sparked a fire in me this time.”
Don’t get it twisted, “D-Rod” loves fight fans. As a matter of fact, he credits the fans for being the ones who motivated him to come back from a hand injury that kept him on the sidelines for over a year.
“The fans are who I fight for,” Rodriguez said. “The close fight and the reaction from fans just gave me an edge to hit training harder than ever and want to fight harder than ever. I don’t want close fights.”
On Saturday, “D-Rod” steps back into the fray against longtime welterweight contender Neil Magny in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs Lemos.
“Before my injury, I was No. 15 in the rankings, but with inactivity my number fell back while other people did their thing and that’s just the fight game,” Rodriguez said. “Now I got my name back in the rankings and I’m fighting a ranked opponent in Neil. It’s a great position to be in and there are big things up next.”
“D-Rod” views Magny as a true veteran who has had success against some of the biggest names in the welterweight division. He also sees Magny as the test that rising contenders often have to pass in order to reach the division’s true elite.
“Neil Magny is like that gatekeeper to the top dudes. Look at Max Griffin; he was trying to get up there and Magny shut him down,” Rodriguez said. “A win over him would put me in a good place for fighting higher-ranked dudes, main events, and more money.”
Daniel Rodriguez | A Natural-Born Fighter
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Daniel Rodriguez | A Natural-Born Fighter
Magny will make the walk this weekend coming off a submission loss to Shavkat Rakhmonov in June.
Both fighters have a chip on their shoulder and should put on quite the show for the fans inside the UFC APEX on Saturday. “D-Rod” expects Magny to look to grind him out and prevent him from establishing a rhythm in his striking. It’s an interesting chess match that “D-Rod” believes will take place a feverish pace.
“Neil grinds people out and pushes the pace; I push a crazy pace myself and that’s how I land the most strikes in the UFC per minute. That goes to show the style of fight that’s going to happen on Saturday,” Rodriguez said. “Right now, at this level I have to be at my best and prepare my best and I did that for this fight with Neil.
“I’m on point right now.”
UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs Lemos took place live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 5, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!