A week days ago in a shocking turn of events, promising featherweight contender Yair ‘El Pantera’ Rodriguez was released from the organization. Rodriguez had an impressive run with the UFC stacking up a record of 6-1. Rodriguez being a black belt in Taekwondo, was known for his highflying style of fight.
Rodriguez suffered his only setback with the organization in his last fight versus Frankie Edgar at UFC 211 in May 2017. Rodriguez has been inactive since then. According to Dana White, the decision to release Rodriguez was a result of him turning down fights against prospect Zabit Magomedsharipov and veteran Ricardo Lamas, despite being inactive for a year.
Rodriguez appeared Monday on The MMA Hour to explain his side of the story.
“I got to talk to (UFC matchmaker) Sean Shelby and I told him I was able to fight Josh Emmett in February in Orlando, Florida, to headline that event (UFC on FOX 28),” Rodriguez explained Monday on The MMA Hour. “And I accepted. I stepped up, and I learned that Josh Emmett wouldn’t accept the fight, or I don’t know if the UFC didn’t want to give it to me or whatever, then I was replaced with Jeremy Stephens. Jeremy Stephens took that fight.”
“Then, after that, we sat again with the UFC and talked about a few other opponents. I talked to Sean Shelby and he told me, ‘What do you have in your mind?’ I told him I think I at least deserve a top 10 [opponent]. No matter what happens, I think I deserve a top 10 [opponent] just because of what I already showed in the UFC. I’m 6-1 in the UFC. Not all the fighters in the UFC have the same record as me. I know I’m still a rising star for the sport or whatever, but I know I have done a lot already. I know [how many] fans I have inside the sport and I don’t think I have to show anybody that I’m not afraid.”
“They said Ricardo Lamas, then I said yes to Ricardo Lamas,” Rodriguez said. “I accepted to fight Ricardo Lamas, but then I later learned that he didn’t take the fight with me. He decided to fight (Mirsad) Bektic instead. Then, during that process, the Zabit fight was causing a lot of hype on social media. … I was like, alright, this is going to be great. I started looking at the big potential for this fight. And it was kind of my fault that I — like a week after Lamas declined the fight, Sean Shelby called me again and he said, ‘Hey, the Lamas fight is still back open. It’s back open for you to fight.’ And after I was asking for any top-10 [opponent] and they didn’t want to give it to me, and then Lamas took Bektic instead of me, I was kind of disappointed. Just kind of disappointed, I’ll say that.
“I started looking at this other fight with Zabit. It was making a lot of sense for me because of the stylistic matchup and stuff. We saw big potential of renegotiating my contract. There was a negotiation that if they wanted me to fight him in LA (at UFC 227), which, I said I’ll fight him in LA, of course, but [only] if you pay me more, because I had saying for the last year that I wanted to fight a top 10 [opponent]. I’m not picking my opponents. I’m just saying I deserve a top 10. Anyone. I actually asked for ‘Korean Zombie’ as well, but they told me he wasn’t ready, even though he posted some stuff on Twitter saying that he wanted to fight Frankie.
“I was like, okay, I’ll fight Zabit if you give me more money in LA, because I understand how big of an event it is, and they said no,” Rodriguez continued. “I was like, okay, if you don’t want to give me more money to fight him in LA, why don’t you give [the fight] to me in Russia, and there’s no need to do any negotiation for that. I want him in Russia. Why? Because he was calling me out. I’m the guy who, I never say much, I just act. I don’t have to be talking about this on my social media.
“They didn’t even want to give it to me in Russia. Then I was like, okay, you don’t want to give me more money to fight him in LA, you don’t want to give me a top-10 [opponent]. Now I’m looking — now I see how the things are going.”
“I told them I will accept anyone in the top 10,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t need a negotiation for a top-10 [opponent]. This guy was No. 13 when I was No. 7. I just got beat by Frankie. It’s just one fight. I’m 6-1 in the UFC. I just think that’s what I deserved, and they didn’t want to give it to me. That was more about respect, respecting myself.
“This, for me, was an eye-opening experience.”
Rodriguez is now the most demanded free agent in the MMA market. Rodriguez said that he has received substantial number of offers and he is hoping to fight as soon as possible.
“I can’t talk too much about it, brother, but there’s been offers,” Rodriguez said. “There’s been really good offers on the table, but you’ll hear soon about what’s going to happen next with me.
“I’m happy,” he added. “Of course, you always want more because you think you deserve more. It’s just the way that it is. Nobody is happy with whatever they have. But … I’m really happy with the offers right now. I’m happy with what is on the table right now. I’m just being smart, I’ve been waiting to see all the offers, and I know my next move is going to be really important for my career and my life.”
Bellator President Scott Coker has also considered signing Rodriguez.