Yair Rodriguez made a significant change to his training camp ahead of his UFC Long Island main event against Brian Ortega.
With the winner likely to get a featherweight title shot, the stakes are high for this one, and for Rodriguez, he says he didn’t spar in training for this fight. “El Pantera” says he wanted to avoid injuries and be as healthy as possible which is why he didn’t spar.
Not Sparring is Nothing New for Yair Rodriguez
“(I’m not sparring), and that’s something I’ve been saying for many years now,” Rodriguez told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “I’ve shared it with my coaches and my training partners, and I always tell them, ‘Don’t you dare touch my face. If you hit me, I’m going to hit you.’ That’s how injuries start.
“That’s the reason why you don’t make it to the fights,” he continued, “because you go in there, and you want to show off in the gym with someone else and then there are injuries. So no, I’m not interested in taking hits during training. They don’t pay for that. They pay me to fight once I’m up in the cage. I try to save myself from as much impact as I can possibly have to my head.”
Dropping sparring from training is nothing new. Former featherweight champion Max Holloway has been vocal about not sparring to help with brain damage.
Brain Damage Concerns in MMA Sparring
Yair Rodriguez, meanwhile, says that is a key reason why he didn’t spar. He believes if he continues to take brain damage in training, he won’t be able to fight as often as he wants and will likely have to end his career early.
“I don’t look to send a message to anybody,” Rodriguez said. “For me, this is very personal. Everything that I do is for me. I don’t do things to prove something to people or anything like that. The only motive I have to finish this fight is so I don’t have much impact on my body and I could return much quicker to competition. If I continue to take damage to the head and body, I’m going to have to keep taking time off, and I don’t have much time on my hands. I turn 30 years old this year and would like to start finishing my fights as soon as possible.”
Rodriguez is coming off a decision loss to Holloway last November and, should he win against Ortega, he has said he will get a title shot.