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How Yair Rodriguez Grew to Become Mexico’s Biggest MMA Star

Mexico's biggest MMA star

Fresh off a win over one of the sport’s most legendary fighters, we look back at how Yair Rodriguez quickly became Mexico’s biggest MMA star.

What makes a fighter special? Some say it’s their ability to speak to the public, sell tickets, make people care. There’s certainly some validity to that. Unless people are invested in you as both a person and a fighter, it’s unlikely they’ll pay to watch you perform.

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UFC President Dana White has a different theory. According to him, what makes a fighter special is what he or she can do inside the cage (or ring) when the pressure is on. It’s his belief that if you perform well enough over a period of time, you’ll draw some eyeballs. This may be true as well. Take Anderson Silva for instance, who barely spoke English but was, for a time, the biggest star in the sport.

Yair Rodriguez falls somewhere in the middle of these two. His talent inside the cage is unquestionable. There may be no other fighter with as varied an arsenal Mexico’s biggest MMA star. He’s not half bad on the microphone either, already endearing himself to both English-speaking and his Spanish-speaking fans. So how did he get here?

Yair Rodriguez’s teenage years

Not many people knew much about how Rodriquez got to where he was until a recent countdown show before his fight with BJ Penn. In this show, he detailed how he was spending his younger years partying every day in the streets of Parral, with no clear vision of his future.

One day, on a walk with his mother, Rodriguez passed by a MMA gym and decided to take a look. After his first class he was hooked, and trained for the next several years before taking his first professional MMA fight.

His talent was evident immediately, as he racked up a 4-1 record. His big break finally came in early 2014 when he was chosen to be a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter’s first Latin America season.

Ultimate Fighter and entry into the UFC

There were a number of talented Latin fighters from many different countries in this season of TUF, but Yair quickly established himself as the top dog, winning his first fight via triangle choke and second via a quick TKO. Just like that, he made Mexican gambling news, and found himself in the finals against Nicaraguan fighter Leonardo Morales.

Yair Rodriguez in 2015

Yair dominated the competition to win TUF: Latin America (photo: ufc.com)

Once again, Rodriguez shined, winning a clear unanimous decision and the Ultimate Fighter trophy. After 3 more wildly impressive victories, including a highlight-reel KO over Andre Fili, Yair was seen as Mexico’s biggest MMA star and was chosen to headline his first event against Alex Caceras.

It was a back and forth brawl, but in the end Yair was awarded the split decision victory. He began campaigning for a big-name fight, and was eventually pitted against one of the most legendary MMA fighters in the sport, BJ Penn.

Mexico’s biggest MMA star reaches new heights

The decision to put Yair against BJ was strange for many MMA betting experts. Penn hadn’t fought in over three years, and hadn’t won a fight since 2010. Most online sportsbooks in Mexico had Yair as a serious MMA betting favorite.

Those Mexican internet sportsbooks, including Intertops proved they had the correct MMA betting odds, as Penn was dominated from the opening seconds and eventually stopped early in the second round.

Just like that, Yair Rodriguez went from a highly touted prospect to one of the most feared featherweights in the sport. He is no longer looked at as an up and comer. Yair has arrived, and with a couple more wins, could become the first Mexican UFC champion in history.

Do you think Yair Rodriguez is Mexico’s biggest MMA star? Will he earn a shot at the title in 2017? Tell us what you think by leaving a comment below, and make sure to check out Intertops for a full list of the best MMA betting lines!

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