“I didn’t know very much about the sport other than the fighters in the UFC,” said Rodriguez. “I didn’t know about famous coaches or past legendary martial artists. I showed up at the gym, she’s one of the original coaches there at the time, and I looked up her YouTube videos and I was like, ‘Damn, this lady’s a killer. She’s a savage.’ (Laughs) I fell in love with her style and she set the tone for my fight style and how I train.”

But there’s one thing you can’t teach in the art of fighting, and luckily Rodriguez already had that.

“I feel like I’ve always had the right team and corners, but as far as that killer mentality and that savage s**t that I got, that’s from growing up in the streets of LA,” he said. “They found me this way; they didn’t make me like this. They just tuned me up and showed me the right way how do things. Other than that, I’ve been a savage, and that’s why I’m so comfortable in that ring or cage. I’ve been through way worse than these fights.”

It’s why after working together for a while, Rodriguez asked Long about checking out The Yard Muay Thai Gym, home to kickboxing great Joe Schilling. Long told Rodriguez that the new guy usually gets a rude welcome, but he insisted.

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“You have my blessing,” Long said to her student. “Tell me how it goes.”

“He came back with a black eye and grinning ear to ear and happy as hell because he held his own over there,” Long laughs. “And he stuck with it.”

“That sounds about right,” laughs Rodriguez, who stuck with fighting all the way to the UFC, where he will make his fifth appearance on Saturday as he opens up the main card on ABC against Mike Perry.