Las Vegas, NV — For the second time in his UFC career, Yair Rodriguez is the underdog heading into a fight.
At UFC 290, Rodriguez (15-3, 1NC) looks to capture the undisputed featherweight championship in a title unification bout with Alexander Volkanovski. The fight comes roughly four months after Mexico’s Rodriguez caught Josh Emmett in a submission to claim interim gold, and marks the first time since his fight with Max Holloway that he’s been the underdog.
“I don’t put attention to none of that. People can always think whatever they want,” Rodriguez said during Wednesday’s UFC 290 media day, dismissive of the betting lines. “At the end of the day, what’s going to talk is my results in fighting. People can bet against me whenever they want, but my friends are winning more by betting to me. So I like it. I like being the underdog. I’m going to show you guys why you guys are wrong about me.”
Of late, Rodriguez has been seen sporting a custom championship belt, stylized with Mexican colors — making it stand out rather distinctively from the industrialized, soulless designs the UFC has shifted to in recent years.
Rodriguez gave some background on that belt and showed it off when asked about the piece by Cageside Press. And apparently, it’s based on the Disney movie Coco, which was inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead.
“Basically, the movie is based on the family that made this. Those are of course cartoon animations, but it’s also a real family. The artist is Jacobo and Maria Angeles, they’re from Oaxaca, Mexico. All you guys can see, it’s not printed, it’s handmade. Dot by dot, line by line, it’s handmade, by Oaxacan artists, these guys.”
“If you guys get close to it, you guys can see the details it has. All the colors are made naturally. There is nothing chemical on it,” Rodriguez added. “Flowers and stuff, they mix flowers, and they mix all these crazy colors that are all natural. This is a unique piece. It doesn’t have a pricetag on it, because it’s unique.”
Rodriguez has noticed some fans being critical of him sporting a custom belt, and explained that it’s not an issue of pride, but rather the belt was a gift.
“I have had many people like ‘oh look at this guy, he’s already bragging around with his belt.’ This is a gift from my management team, and these guys. Which I really truly appreciate, because it’s unique,” he stated. “You guys can see the Mexican art on it, and it’s a beautiful piece. I’m proud of having it here, presenting it to you guys. So you guys have something to say to the UFC. Something like this would be cool for the future.”
While Rodriguez attempts to unify the featherweight titles this Saturday at UFC 290, earlier in the week, good friend Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. Cerrone stated recently that if any fighter was the next “Cowboy,” it was Yair.
“Hell yeah. F*ck yeah. My man,” Rodriguez said in response. While he has business to attend to this weekend, Cerrone may just be beside him during his weight cut this week. And even if he can’t make the Hall of Fame ceremony, “El Pantera” will be there in spirit, and honor Cerrone his own way.
“I just love him, I wish him all the best, I congratulate him. You guys will see, I have a good surprise for you on Saturday.”
Watch the full UFC 290 media day appearance by Yair Rodriguez above.