Coming off a technical knockout win over Amanda Ribas, Marina Rodriguez will headline UFC on ESPN 24 against Michelle Waterson on Saturday.
In an exclusive interview with Sherdog.com, Rodriguez revealed that she was the one who requested that the fight with Waterson be contested at flyweight. Both Rodriguez and Waterson normally compete at 115 pounds.
“Actually we were negotiating that fight for July in our division,” Rodriguez said. “When they [the UFC] called 11 days before the event, we explained that the process to reach the weight on time would certainly compromise my performance, so we proposed to make at flyweight and they accepted.
“Actually, it ended up being great for both sides. Once the UFC recognized my effort in helping them save the event, they renewed my contract with better terms.”
However, Rodriguez has no interest in competing in the flyweight division after Saturday’s bout.
“Let´s say it will be a strawweight fight in the flyweight division. I worked hard to reach sixth in [the UFC] strawweight rankings. Now that I’m so close to the title shot it doesn’t make any sense to go up and start from the beginning again.”
Rodriguez, who earned a UFC contract on the Brazilian version of Dana White’s Contender Series, has compiled a 3-1-2 mark thus far within the Las Vegas-based promotion. The muay Thai specialist uses her height and reach to keep her fights at range, and that’s what she intends to do against Waterson.
“All my opponents avoid standing with me, and I believe Michelle will be no different,” Rodriguez said. “My plan follows the same strategy of my last fight. But this will be my first five-round fight, so I won’t rush. In the right moment, I’ll connect my best shot, just like I did against Amanda.”
In the event Waterson is able to take the fight to the ground, Rodriguez, who is a jiu-jitsu purple belt under Alexandre de Souza, is confident that she can succeed in that area.
“I’ve wanted to show my evolution on the ground for a long time,” Rodriguez said. “Maybe even before we reach the floor I might surprise her with my jiu-jitsu.”
If she defeats Waterson, Rodriguez believes she will be close to a strawweight title shot.
“If I win with a great performance, I believe I will be one step from the belt. So I hope UFC offers me a Top 3 opponent,” she said. “But if they believe I deserve the title shot right away, I´ll be more than ready.”
Rodriguez has already considered the possibility of a matchup with current 115-pound champion Rose Namajunas.
“I have no doubt that a fight between me and Rose would be a striking clash that all fighting fans would love to see,” she said. “But for now I´m totally focused in my fight against Waterson, which will certainly be another war to entertain MMA fans.”
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