Youth vs. Experience in Upcoming UFC Match
(Featured Photo: Yair Rodriguez/ufc.com)
By Carla León Celaya
Yair Rodriguez, a.k.a. El Pantera, is from Chihuahua, Mexico. He’s a mixed martial artist and Taekwondo black belt. Rodriguez started to train in martial arts when he was just 5 years old. His training progressed as he practiced several styles: taekwondo, judo, karate and boxing.
“I think all my life I have been in contact sports, that’s why a single sport wasn’t enough for me,” says Rodriguez. “I was always looking for something else, something to fulfill me out; so I found MMA and I fell in love with it.”
The 24-year-old competes in the Featherweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and is currently ranked #10.
“I know that there is a lot of guys that are good, but I’m the upcoming guy,” says Rodriguez. “I have talent, the age, and all these crazy movements: kicks, punches, submissions, takedowns, everything!”
Rodriguez believes he is the complete fighter. And on top of that, he gets the “once in a lifetime” opportunity to face off against a legend, here in the Valley. The plot twist lies in the fact that while he was growing up, Yair would watch BJ Penn fight on YouTube videos.
“Every single one of my coaches are 30 something, and every single one of them kick my [butt],” says Rodriguez. “People think that it is an advantage to be young, but Penn has experience, he knows the game and is mentally strong.”
Any sport, art, movement practice, you name it – requires commitment, and success sometimes comes at a cost. “Being far from my family is one of the biggest sacrifices I’ve made,” says Rodriguez. “I left home, I left school, I left all my friends and changed my life. I’m speaking to you in English right now, but nobody teach me, I just learned the hard way.”
Rodriguez mentioned that all sacrifices are good and he is willing to pay the price.
“Sacrifice, dedication and hard work,” these are the words El Pantera uses to describe his journey so far.
As Rodríguez sat in retrospect and took the time to look back at 2016, he admitted to having some unmet goals.
“I’ve had huge opportunities this year, but I wanted to become the youngest champion in the history of the UFC and couldn’t,” says Rodriguez. “Now I can’t do that, but I can do other things!”
Rodriguez is excited for 2017, specially the upcoming match. “I hope you guys watch me shine that night because I’m going to fight against a legend and not many people have this opportunity in their life,” says Rodriguez. “I’m going to try to do my best up there.”
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