Mike Rodriguez Says Debut At UFC 223 Is 'Same Sh*t, Just More Cameras'

By Daniel Vreeland

April 7’s UFC 223 fight card might be in Brooklyn, but the card has the flavor of a state just to the east of New York. 

A quick scan of the card shows four Massachusetts fighters on the card, one of whom is on the pay-per-view portion. 

Of those fighters, just one is making his debut in the UFC. After a stellar flying-knee KO on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, Mike Rodriguez earned a contract with the world's premier MMA organization. Although that was eight months ago at this point, he officially steps inside the Octagon for the first time against Devin Clark at UFC 223. 

Before that bout, he talked with the Top Turtle MMA Podcast about the wait for his debut. 


“I was injured for a little bit,” Rodriguez said. “After the injury, they just weren’t booking me for anything. So I was just hanging out and training.” 

Although this is undoubtedly something many young fighters deal with after signing their first UFC contract, it was especially hard for Rodriguez, who had to watch UFC 220 in Boston from the sidelines. 

“Oh, man, it was the worst," Rodriguez said. "All my friends were fighting and I wasn’t. It sucked." 

But the fact that he and all of his friends are now on the same elevated stage is a point to celebrate. Although it took Massachusetts some time to have more than just a handful of fighters represented at the highest level, they now seem to be pouring through the UFC's doors. 

That’s something Rodriguez and his training partners are very excited about. 

“Me and [UFC featherweight Calvin] Kattar were talking about that the other day," Rodriguez said. "He had put it best. He was like, 'It’s like we all just graduated.” 

That graduating class includes the likes of not just Kattar and Rodriguez but also Matt Bessette and Manny Bermudez, all of whom cut their teeth in New England-based promotions CES MMA and/or Cage Titans FC and then made their UFC debuts in the last year. 

While all of them may not have access to Massachusetts' elder statesman, Joe Lauzon, Rodriguez is using the wise words of his training partner and coach to prep. 

“He’s always told me to just remember that from CES [MMA] to the UFC, from Twin River to fighting at the Barclays, it’s the same shit. Nothing changes," Rodriguez said. “The only thing is the lights are brighter and there [are] more cameras.”

XFN 23 Full Preview, How To Watch On FloCombat

Saturday night, one of the Southeast’s most exciting MMA promotions, XFN, returns for another action-packed night of combat.

XFN 23: Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva's Daughter, Anne Ribeiro, Makes MMA Debut

Mixed martial arts runs in Anne Ribeiro’s veins, so it only makes sense she’s competing at XFN 23. 

Shamrock FC 316's Evan Elder Inspired By Teammate Kamaru Usman

Evan Elders vs. Antonio Atkins - SFC 309

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

When Dana White wrapped the belt around Kamaru Usman’s waist at UFC 235, the victory extended beyond an individual accomplishment. After years of being one of the best coaches in the world, Henri Hooft finally had a UFC champion, and his team, Hard Knocks 365, could finally claim they won gold at the highest level. 

Shamrock FC 316 Full Preview, How To Watch: Dowdy, Elder Highlight Card

Shamrock FC 316's Jordan Dowdy Goes Retro

Oh boy. It’s happening again! 

UFC London's Arnold Allen Wants At Least Three Fights In 2019

When Arnold Allen steps into the cage this weekend at UFC Fight Night 147 in London, he’ll be looking to make it five straight wins inside the Octagon. That win would put him in elite company in the featherweight division—a tie for third with Zabit Magomedsharipov. He would only trail champion Max Holloway and top challenger Alexander Volkanovski. 

Mike Grundy Wrestling For A Nation At UFC London

The stereotype is well ingrained in the fabric of MMA; English fighters can’t wrestle. 

Top Turtle MMA: UFC London Breakdown, Top 5 Low-Key Beasts In UFC

On this week’s episode of the Top Turtle MMA Podcast on FloCombat, Gumby and Dave are diving into UFC Fight Night 147 from London in a big way. They’re not only breaking down the top fights from the card, but they’re also joined by three of the fighters on the card.

Undefeated Heavyweight Rudy Schaffroth To Face Jeremy Hardy At Bellator 218

One of Bellator MMA’s top up-and-coming heavyweights is set to return March 22 at Bellator 218 in Thackerville, Oklahoma.

Gerald Meerschaert vs. Kevin Holland Targeted For UFC On ESPN 2

UFC on ESPN 2: Philadelphia is just over two weeks away, but the lineup isn’t set just yet.

UFC Wichita's Beneil Dariush Credits Work With Vettori, Kelvin Gastelum

Although the amount of fighters going up a weight class seems to be climbing, there are still a number of them who are a standard deviation away from the average mass of their division-mates. Whether or not this is an advantage, it certainly has to be a consideration for their opponents.