Marina Rodriguez is on a four win streak ahead of the main event of UFC Vegas 64 on Saturday night against Amanda Lemos. She takes the place of the headliner, even if she does not see any logic in the matchmaking.
Talking about this week’s MMA Fightings release free exchange, Rodriguez said the fight with Lemos is “a fight that doesn’t make sense.” But, she added, “as a good employee of the company, [I] I am well prepared for the meeting [Lemos] and go through another challenge to get what we want, which is the belt.”
Lemos guillotineed Michelle Waterson-Gomez last July to bounce back from a quick loss to Jessica Andrade in April. Rodriguez has taken previous wins over Waterson-Gomez, Mackenzie Dern and Yang Xiaonan and is looking to go 5-0 from 2021.
According to Rodriguez, the UFC originally offered to fight former champion Zhang Weili at UFC 275 in Singapore this June, but she pulled it out with a month’s notice. In the end, Weili knocked out Joanna Jedrzejczyk on that card to earn a fight against strawweight champion Carla Esparza at UFC 281.
“After the fight with Yan, I had injuries, like everyone else,” Rodriguez said. “After three difficult rounds against a strong opponent, we needed more time.”
Tayla Santos, who was training with Rodriguez’s team at the time, was scheduled to play on the same team as flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko, making it difficult for a “small team” like her.
“We said we would do it, but we would push it back by one or two months,” Rodriguez said. “The UFC said no, it was supposed to take place that day in Singapore. And since we asked for more time, they refused and put Joanna in.”
When a match with Lemos was offered on October 22, Rodriguez felt she “had to go” or else she would turn down another fight. Then the fight between Rodriguez and Lemos was postponed two weeks ago and moved to the main venue of the UFC Vegas 64 tournament.
“As Dana White says, timing is everything,” Rodriguez said. “I really lost Zhang’s time, but I don’t regret it because we needed more time to have a great fight against the former champion. We don’t do things in any way.
“There were times when we put up fights on short notice, but the odds were on our side,” she continued. “But in this case, it was like a trap to go there and make sure Zhang wins. To do this to me? I needed more time to prove that it wouldn’t be easy. But that’s in the past. I don’t do it because the UFC still sees us and that’s why they offered us another fight so quickly.”
Rodriguez said she’s used to taking steps back in the rankings and will prove on Saturday that she’s ready for the top of the division. She knows that Lemos is not an easy enemy.
“The perfect scenario is me winning [against] Amanda Lemos and [regardless of whether] Dana White [is] say or not say I’m next, I’ll be next [for the belt]”, Rodriguez said. “I will sit in the front row in New York and do my best to be seen and heard.
“The real ideal scenario is my rematch with Carla Esparza. This is the only defeat in my career, and by split decision, in a very close fight, but still [points] for Zhang Weili to win this fight. I just want my chance no matter who I fight. Carla, or Weili, or anyone else in my path, but it must be because of the belt.