Yair Rodriguez is officially a titleholder…
The 30-year-old Mexican professional mixed martial artist is the UFC‘s interim featherweight champion following a masterful finish over Josh Emmett at UFC 284.
Rodriguez (15-3) submitted Emmett via triangle choke at 4 minutes, 19 seconds of the second round. The 145-pound bout co-headlined UFC 284, which took place on Sunday morning local time at RAC Arena.
The UFC created an interim title because defending champion Alexander Volkanovski (25-2) moved up in weight to challenge Islam Makhachev for the lightweight belt. Volkanovski came up just short in his bid in the main event of UFC 284, losing to Makhachev by unanimous decision.
Rodriguez went into the fight as a favorite, but Emmett (18-3) had him in trouble early. Emmett, a Sacramento-based fighter, hurt Rodriguez in the opening round with a right hand, which Rodriguez later admitted nearly put him out. Emmett used the shot to get into top position and cause more damage.
Rodriguez regrouped in the second round, however, and started hurting Emmett badly to the body with kicks. Emmett was clearly affected by the shots and started to turn into an easier target for Rodriguez’s versatile offense. He hurt him moments later with an elbow along the fence.
Emmett managed to get Rodriguez to the ground a little later in the round, but Rodriguez stayed active and caught the triangle off his back.
“I’ve been dreaming of this moment since I was a kid,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez becomes the second Mexican-born champion in UFC history.
The first, Brandon Moreno, is a two-time flyweight champion who just reclaimed his belt with a victory over Deiveson Figueiredo last month.
Volkanovski, of Australia, will likely look to unify his title against Rodriguez in their next appearances.