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Yahya is also one of the premier grapplers in the game, and while you might think battling it out on the mat would be an enticing prospect for a fellow jiu-jitsu black belt, Rodriguez is after a win on Saturday, not bragging rights. 

“We have to think about the risk to reward ratio,” he said. “So, if we get to the ground, the chances of us potentially getting caught go up significantly. But if we stay on the feet, he’s never knocked anyone out before and I’ve heard he’s working on his boxing and stuff like that, but there’s not a lot you can learn in such a short amount of time, and I feel like once we stick him a couple times, he’s gonna start shooting and go back to his comfort zone. And once we take him out of his comfort zone and force him to strike a little bit, I think we’ll start breaking him down little by little. If it goes to the ground, though, it’s not something I’m gonna completely disengage from. We’re respecting his ground game, but I’m not afraid of it, either.”

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Add in a full training camp, and Rodriguez is confident that the second time around will be a winning one for him. Then again, nothing is ever completely perfect, and there was the winter storm that hit the Lone Star State hard in February.

“When I was in the Army, I was in Europe for two years, so we got a lot of snow over there, but they’re used to it,” Rodriguez said. “They have things to help mitigate the chances of people getting in wrecks and stuff like that. Here in Texas, people didn’t know what to do. It was wild. It was a movie. The lines for the grocery stores were like a quarter mile long, no restaurants were open and it was rough. It was definitely crazy.”

Rodriguez and his family lost power in the first 24 hours of the storm and used a fireplace for heat until going over to his mother’s house. But there was one of those magical winter moments with his wife and two kids…at least for 20 minutes.


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