LAS VEGAS — Don’t worry. Yair Rodriguez hasn’t gone anywhere.
Rodriguez (10-2) is one of the UFC’s most promising prospects, but he’s been virtually off the grid since a TKO loss to Frankie Edgar nine months ago.
The 25-year-old Mexican told ESPN he’s been focused on his personal life during that time and is currently finalizing a permanent move from Chicago to Las Vegas. He plans to keep head coach Mike Valle and train at the UFC’s Performance Institute.
“I’ve been analyzing myself and have come to realizations on what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong,” Rodriguez said. “I went back home to Mexico, where my family opened a business less than six months ago. I’ve been building some apartment buildings there. I’m just taking some time for myself, and that’s why you haven’t seen me.”
This move to Las Vegas, however, could be a sign that Rodriguez is close to getting back into the Octagon.
Rodriguez wanted to figure out his living situation prior to accepting a fight. With that now settled, he says he doesn’t have a name in mind but wants a highly ranked opponent.
Despite the loss to Edgar, Rodriguez believes he’s still in the thick of featherweight title contention. And he wants an opponent who reflects that.
“I just fought Frankie Edgar, who is next to fight for the title. That means something,” Rodriguez said. “I was on a six-fight win streak before that.
“I want to be the f—ing best, and I will show it. I am confident. People around me, who have seen me train, they will tell you. I’m not a f—ing joke.
“People may say I took the Frankie fight too soon — I’m 25 years old and been in martial arts for 20 of those. I know what I’m talking about. Of course, Frankie Edgar’s experience was a factor in that fight, but I have to be ready. If I’m fighting at the top, I have to be ready. I’m not going to make excuses.”
Rodriguez admits he buckled under pressure last year, but he says it was of his own doing.
The UFC had clearly identified him as a potential star, but most of the pressure Rodriguez felt was self-inflicted. He began isolating himself during that last training camp, which is why he required this time off to unwind.
“I couldn’t handle the pressure. It exploded,” Rodriguez said. “I was being really hard on myself. I was becoming crazy, honestly. It was weird stuff.
“I wasn’t listening to my coaches. I was getting mad at training. I thought I was right about certain stuff. I think during the process of growing and becoming a star, you just stop trusting a lot of people. I started putting myself in a bubble and it really affected me.
“That’s why I wanted to take time and refocus. All of what I’m doing in my personal life is for fighting. Of course, I’m also doing it because I want to, but it’s all based on fighting. Fighting is the most important.”