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UFC Mexico City: Yair Rodriguez vs. Brian Ortega 2 has major implications with a new champion in the division

How quickly things change. Yair Rodriguez and Brian Ortega will meet at UFC Fight Night in Mexico City on Saturday. The pair were treading water in an exciting but non-impactful fight as it concerned the UFC featherweight title. But after Ilia Topuria knocked out Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 298 to become champion, Rodriguez vs. Ortega 2 might suddenly be a title audition.

Volkanovski cleaned out a good chunk of the division during his great championship reign. He defeated Max Holloway three times, Rodriguez, Ortega and “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung in featherweight title fights. Volkanovski was so dominant that Holloway took a detour to lightweight and Saturday’s co-headliners were fighting more for relevance than opportunity. Rodriguez’s apathy towards the Ortega rematch suggests as much.

“Honestly because they didn’t give me any other option,” Rodriguez told CBS Sports’ “Morning Kombat” co-host Brian Campbell when asked about taking the fight. “It was this or it was this and that was it. But honestly, when I talked to Brian Ortega after the last fight, I told him I hoped to fight him again.”

Check out the full interview with Yair Rodriguez below.

Rodriguez and Ortega met in a highly anticipated UFC Fight Night main event in Long Island on July 16, 2022. It pitted two of the sport’s most dynamic rising stars in a high-octane firefight. Ortega suffered a fight-ending shoulder injury late into Round 1 and hasn’t returned to the Octagon. Ortega’s 19-month recovery process included surgery, physical rehabilitation, stem cells and adaptations to his style. Anything to mitigate the risk to his shoulder moving forward.

“When you tear something, the guy goes in there, cuts you open, and stitches you back up. He puts in anchors and screws…” Ortega told CBS Sports. “From there, you have to heal from that and go to physical therapy two to three times a week until you hit a six-month mark. Once you hit a six-month mark, they say you can lightly do what you want to do for three months. Now we’re at the nine-month mark. Now it’s like, ‘Go into your world and play around with it but don’t mess it up.’ That takes another month or two to find your confidence.”

Check out the full interview with Brian Ortega below.

The featherweight field is wide open. It’s not unlikely the UFC will grant Volkanovski an immediate rematch, but taking a break may be in his best interest after consecutive KO losses. Holloway has the best active resume among featherweight challengers but is booked for a lightweight BMF title fight against Justin Gaethje at UFC 300. Holloway’s turnaround is dependent on the outcome of that April 13 fight. Movsar Evloev is undefeated but soured UFC president Dana White with his performance against Arnold Allen at UFC 297. Rodriguez and Ortega — two popular acts for the promotion — might be in the right place at the right time.

“I think he’s a p—y. I f—ing dislike the guy. I think he’s delusional,” Rodriguez said of Topuria before UFC 298. “But honestly, I don’t even give a f— about the guy. I would love to f— him up. At some point, I think we’re going to fight each other unless he doesn’t f—ing want to. But that’s what I think about him.

“I’m going to make sure to ruin every contender,” Ortega said in response to Topuria threatening not to defend his title against the current crop of challengers. “Simple as that. One, you have to win it. Two, I’m going to take all the contenders away from you… If you don’t want to fight us then I’m going to take all your people.”

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