Yair Rodriguez Ready To Take On All Challengers

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The UFC featherweight division will have a unified champion crowned at UFC 212 on June 3 when Max Holloway and Jose Aldo go toe-to-toe in Rio de Janeiro. One man who could be challenging the winner by the end of the year is the fast-rising prospect Yair Rodriguez, who most recently defeated the legend BJ Penn in the main event of UFC Fight Night Phoenix on Jan. 15.

After dispensing of Penn in dominant fashion inside 5 1/2 minutes, it didn't take long for Rodriguez to be asked--when will he return? Speaking backstage with reporters at UFC 208 this past weekend, the Mexican said it was all a matter of waiting for the UFC to give him a call.

"I'm just waiting to see what the UFC wants to bring and I'll take whoever," Rodriguez said. "Whoever the UFC want to me to fight I'll be ready for him. I don't really care at this time. [I hope] someone near the top of the division. Any fight is going to be really, really tough so it really doesn't matter, you know?

"I think most the fighters in the top 10 are on the same level in different ways--some of them in striking, some of them in wrestling and some of them in jiu-jitsu. But, [part of] being prepared to be part of the top [means] you got to be ready for everything. It doesn't really matter, this is an MMA game so whoever."

The 24-year-old was asked again if there was any fighter in the division who he thought would be a good matchup for him. Rodriguez remained firm with his "anyone" response, and he explained why he was willing just to settle for whatever the UFC offered him.

"I just take whatever they bring to me," Rodriguez reiterated. "I just say yes to everything. If they say 'Hey, man, we want you to be here. We want you to be there,' I just say yes to everything.

"I just think some people don't want to be there, or they don't like being in certain places. I just say yes to anything because I think I can be part of anything that I want to be."

One thing the Mexican didn't hesitate to reaffirm was that he was back in the gym and ready to go whenever the matchmakers were ready to give him a call. Judging by his tone, the sooner that call comes the better.

"I'm already back in training," Rodriguez said. "I was back in training the next Monday after the fight. Of course, [I've been] taking care of my body and my knee like I have during all the years of my training camp, but now I feel amazing and I've been training."

Asked what life was like after his fight with Penn in January, Rodriguez said he felt comfortable that he had Penn's number heading into the bout, and that ever since he got the win, more people have been recognizing across America.  

"BJ is a legend, and I respect him a lot," Rodriguez said. "I knew what he was trying to bring to the table that night and I knew he was trying to walk though me in the first round because he knows I get tired. I was using that as an advantage you and I started pressuring him and then I hurt him with that left had kick and I started pushing and I knew I could finish the fight.

"Before [the] BJ [fight], yes of course people recognized me, but not as much as this time. Now I see in the United States a lot of people are asking me for pictures and photographs and all that stuff. Before it was just in Mexico, in Latin America with Hispanic people. Now it's like everywhere. Russians, Americans...anyone.

"Like you say, BJ is a legend and people knew him, so I think a lot of people were watching the fight that night so that just put me right there."

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