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“I knew that sooner or later I would get my first KO in the UFC,” said Rodriguez, who enters her first main event matchup with a 13-1-2 overall record. “My coach, Marcio Malko, has been telling me since my first fight, ‘Marina, when you have around 15 fights under your belt, you will start to see things differently; you will start to see the right openings and the right placement for the strikes and you will get more finishes.’

“And that is exactly what happened!”

Coming off such an impressive victory and standing on the cusp of the Top 5 in the talent-rich strawweight division, it would be understandable if the emerging Brazilian contender opted against a last-minute assignment against a veteran like Waterson, who is currently stationed three spots behind Rodriguez in the Top 10.

But the biggest concern for the talented contender fighting out of Florianopolis wasn’t the risk-reward balance of facing someone positioned below her in the rankings or sharing the Octagon with a seasoned competitor with nearly twice as many fights in her career; it was the prospect to trying to make the 115-pound weight limit on such a condensed timeline.

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“We had thought about fighting Waterson before because she would definitely be someone that would help me develop my game inside the Octagon,” said Rodriguez, explaining the decision-making process that brought this weekend’s main event together. “The main hesitation with this bout was the weight, as making strawweight in two weeks — even if I was able to make it, would severely hinder my ability to perform at the level I want to show the fans.

“So when the option of fighting at flyweight presented itself I jumped on it.”

Now that she’s no longer worried about her weight, Rodriguez’s sole focus heading into Saturday is keeping herself calm and not getting too deep into her own thoughts as she readies to make her second appearance of 2021 on Saturday night.


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