With two wins in his first two UFC fights, Daniel Rodriguez believes he is putting it all together.
Daniel Rodriguez was happy to get his second UFC win in impressive fashion on May 30, as his 175 significant strikes landed on Gabe Green ranked second-most for a three-round welterweight fight in UFC history. In the back of his head, though, Rodriguez didn’t love how tired he felt in the bout despite the high pace, and so he went back to work, revamping his strength and conditioning.
“Even though I threw all those punches, I didn’t like the fact that I was gassing,” Rodriguez told UFC.com. “I try to give myself some credit because yeah, I did throw and land all those punches, but I just try to improve and learn something about myself every single fight whether it’s win or lose. Fortunately, the majority of fights, I win.”
It’s true. The Southern California-bred fighter is 12-1 with 10 wins on his record and feels like a fighter who is a win or two away from deserving some notice. He has the chance to score his third win in just six months on the roster on August 22 as he meets Takashi Sato. That level of activity is something Rodriguez said he always wanted to have, and he finds some irony that it took until he got to the highest level of the sport to achieve that.
The matchup is one Rodriguez welcomes and expects to play out a lot like his fight against Green, which was more or less a stand-and-bang affair.
“It’s a real fan-friendly style for both of us, seeing as how we’re both primarily strikers,” Rodriguez said. “I just want to keep rising up the rankings. I’m here to fight, and I’m here to get as many fights as possible and really get the fans to take notice of me and my fight style.”
Style-wise, Rodriguez is primarily boxing-based, going back to his days growing up and watching Julio Cesar Chavez and Mike Tyson fights with his family. He said he “truly loves” the sweet science, but is deterred by the politics that sometimes overwhelm the sport, crediting UFC for putting the top fighters against each other.
Soon enough, Rodriguez found mixed martial arts and “fell in love” with the sport. With that in mind, though, he always knew he had a uniquely keen talent throwing hands.
“Growing up, even before this (style of) fighting, they’d say, ‘Man, that guy has got hands,’” Rodriguez said. “I got good hands. In my last fight, I landed all those punches, and that’s just the fight style that I have. You know those fighters when you rock them, right away they go to their natural ability. If you rock a wrestler, he’ll go to a takedown. If you rock a Muay Thai guy, he’s going to start throwing kicks. Me, I’m going to bite down on my mouthguard and start throwing some punches. That’s just my style. Sato is a little bit similar.”
Seeing as he is such a big boxing fan, it begs the question: Who does Rodriguez think has the best boxing on the UFC roster?
“I really like Max Holloway’s style, but I don’t know,” he said, pausing for a few seconds. “Actually, best boxing in MMA… There’s this guy I know. He’s pretty dope. His name is D-Rod.”
Sly candor aside, Rodriguez feels like he is finally coming into his own, both physically and mentally. Part of the mental side of the game he had to learn was when and where to listen to his body and take the necessary breaks needed to be at full strength in training. Focusing more on a sprint-based approach to strength-and-conditioning, he is finding the balance in that work as well as the normal cardio work he did before.
It’s all a part of his maturity as a mixed martial artist, and he’s learning how to apply that to every aspect of the fight game.
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“I remember when I first started, I didn’t take the weight cuts and training as serious,” Rodriguez said. “Now I realize every single guy I’ll face is world-class, so I owe it to myself and my journey to take this s*** professionally. Everything I do, I gotta be professional in how I eat, how I sleep, how I train, how I conduct myself when it’s time to be on camera and do these interviews and stuff.”
Rodriguez feels like he has everything coming together as he looks to traverse the welterweight landscape. He hopes a win over Sato continues that journey upward and is especially excited to compete so close to what is now known as “Kobe Bryant Day” in Orange County on August 24, which references the late-NBA legend’s two numbers (eight and 24) he wore throughout his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Rodriguez’ mouthguard features the Lakers’ purple-and-gold as well as the numbers eight and 24, and after his last fight ended, he yelled “Kobe” to the cameras.
He joked he might need to bring his Kobe jersey with him to Las Vegas, but more than that, Rodriguez is just excited and hopeful that his next fight earns him more fans and more respect as a threat to the 170-pound division. With everything going his way lately, he feels like this is the exact right time to make his climb up the ladder.
“I’m peaking right now,” Rodriguez said. “I’m killing it right now. I’m killing it.”