“Oh my God. I just remember Bruce Buffer saying my name for the first time. That was a lot. But it was so beautiful.”
Piera Rodriguez is reflecting on her UFC debut last April. The victory over Kay Hansen at UFC 273 was predictably sweet for her, but the reality that she could make her own dreams come true is what sticks with her.
“This was always a dream…but it’s kind of a fantasy when you start. It’s so unreal. But little by little, you start getting a little bit closer and maybe it can happen. But when it really happens, it’s a feeling that you cannot explain. You reach your biggest goal in your life…it’s amazing.”
No UFC athlete has had an easy journey to the Octagon, but by any standard, Rodriguez’s was particularly challenging. Training in whatever gym she could, in whatever country that would have her, Rodriguez scraped by on meager earnings to manifest a career as a mixed martial artist.
“I started training like seven or almost eight years ago. When I stepped in the cage for the first time, when I when I did my first MMA fight, even though it was an amateur fight, I felt like this is my place.”
Never mind that she had already achieved a degree in psychology. She knew in that moment what her true calling was.
Piera Rodriguez | Next Level
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Piera Rodriguez | Next Level
“I'm going to really try to do my best in this thing,” she recalls telling herself. “Because it's my thing in life. So that's when it changed.”
Her career after that change is a testament to what can be accomplished when you realize what you’re put here to do. 8-0 as a professional, the Venezuelan claimed the LFA strawweight title before getting the call for Dana White’s Contender Series in 2021. Employing a style she self-describes as “violent, aggressive and unstoppable,” she secured her spot in the UFC last October. Yet as she sits in the UFC APEX for our interviews, she’s all smiles as the memories of that night wash over her.
“That was a very epic moment. When he called me to get the contract, I was, like dreaming, you know? Too many emotions in my in my heart on that day.”
She’ll climb back into the APEX Octagon Saturday with the intent of creating more epic memories when she meets Sam Hughes on the prelims of UFC Fight Night: Grasso vs Araújo.
“I didn't know much about Sam Hughes before this fight, but I knew she fought with my friend Vanessa [Demopoulos, now a UFC fighter] for the LFA title. But once I got a call for fighting her, of course I started looking at her and seeing where she's breakable.”
“La Fiera” has a knack for finding where her opponents are breakable. All of her finishes have come as a result of her clinical striking, but she boasts a blue belt in BJJ if the action goes to the mat. Already overwhelming to all her opponents to date, she picked up a few things in her travels from a UFC star who specializes in being overwhelming: Khamzat Chimaev.
“I went to Stockholm and I slept in the one room that was his room when he was living there…a little room inside the gym.”
The accommodations were modest, to be generous, but the experience turned out to be invaluable. She studied his arc and can see a blueprint for her own path.
“I get so inspired by him because I see where he lived every day of his life a few years ago. Now I see where he is in his career. I was also able to see how he trains every day. Even if the coach is not there, you see him training every day like crazy. So that's very motivational for me. I want to get there. I want to get to the point of my career where I can look back and see all of my process, see where he is today. It just makes me want to push myself a little bit more.”
UFC Fight Night: Grasso vs Araujo took place live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 15, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!