Yair Rodriguez is not a fan of Ilia Topuria.
On Saturday, Topuria challenges Alexander Volkanovski for the featherweight title in the main event of UFC 298 in Anaheim, Calif. It’s Volkanovski’s first fight back since getting knocked out by Islam Makhachev in October, and the quick turnaround has many concerned for the long-reigning featherweight champion.
Even though Rodriguez believes it’s not ideal, he still believes in Volkanovski.
“I was surprised about him taking another fight after the KO, so soon against Topuria,” Rodriguez told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “So I think he did a little bit of a mistake there. I would have waited a little bit longer.
“I think he’s going to win. But I just think in all the possibilities, the only reason I think Topuria could win is [Volkanovski] won’t be 100 percent. Not mentally, but maybe physically, inside of his head. Who knows what happens after you get a KO. Topuria hits hard. There are several factors. That’s the only thing that I think can affect Volkanovski. He’s really smart, he’s really good. I think he’s a way better fighter than Topuria, and I think he will win.”
Rodriguez faced Volkanovski this past July, losing by third-round TKO in their featherweight title unification bout at UFC 290, and that may play a factor in his breakdown of the fight. But his confidence in Volkanovski also might be attributable to his feelings about Topuria.
“I just don’t flike the guy,” Rodriguez said. “He talks so much s, and I think it was an easy way for him to go and fight for the title. I’m not only going to say me, but different fighters, we have to go fight like true warriors, true flions, and this guy, I think it was an easier way to go and fight for the title. That’s it. I think the UFC is making it easy for him.
“He does a pretty good job marketing himself. The biggest thing in this sport, if you know how to market yourself, you get the better deals, you get the better fights. It’s no secret. Everybody knows that, and I think he’s great at doing that. I don’t blame him for that. I just don’t flike the guy. …
“It’s sad that people like him get the better fights because of his mouth, not because of his fights. I don’t flike that. Regardless of the result of this fight, I would flike to fhim up.”
If Rodriguez is wrong, though, and Topuria beats Volkanovski, his hopes of facing the Spaniard might not be so easy to manifest. Earlier this month, Topuria said if he wins the belts, he’ll target a fight with Conor McGregor over giving opponents like Rodriguez — who failed against Volkanovski — a title shot.
Unsurprisingly, Rodriguez did not take kindly to that.
“He’s fdelusional,” Rodriguez said. “He’s not even fin the same world as us. Another fplanet. I’m pretty sure Volkanovski is going to do the first job in fhim up and then he’s going to have to eat all of these words and everybody is going to be flaughing at him, I can assure you of that. …
“I never gave a fabout the guy until he started ftalking sabout me. I didn’t really pay attention to him, but this is the name of the sport. You talk about somebody that is better known than you in the sport, and then you start becoming more known. That’s what he’s doing. Let’s be honest about this, because this is not a secret. He will talk sabout whoever. He’s mentioning Canelo, he’s mentioning McGregor, why do you think he’s doing that? It’s marketing. He will never get to fight somebody like McGregor, he will never get to face somebody like Canelo. Of course not. …
“His career will be over after this fight against Volkanovski. He’s been talking so much s, saying so many things, and people are going to be flaughing at him after this.”
Rodriguez is currently scheduled to face Brian Ortega in a five-round rematch in the co-main event of UFC Mexico later this month. Given the state of the featherweight title picture right now, and his belief that Volkanovski will retain the belt, Rodriguez doesn’t believe a fight with Topuria will happen immediately. But when it does, he’d be more than happy to settle their differences – and even give Topuria the home field advantage.
“If I win my fight against Brian Ortega, which I’m planning on doing, and Alexander Volkanovski wins, I would like to face Volkanovski, of course,” Rodriguez said. “Why would I face [Topuria]? He has nothing to offer. But I would like to face him, at some point, and fhim up.
“If UFC plans to go to Spain, f, I would love to fight in Spain. It’s his house. I would love to fbeat him in his house.”