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Marina Rodriguez of Brazil prepares to fight Virna Jandiroba of Brazil in a strawweight fight during the UFC 288 event at Prudential Center on May 06, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
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Marina Rodriguez | All Business On The Big Stage

Work Ethic Of Strawweight Contender Pays Off When The Lights Are The Brightest

Just days ago, Marina Rodriguez posted a seemingly benign message on her social media.

“Hey guys, this subscription here on Instagram will be to show some backstage moments of my day, but remember that I do not change my focus of training and fighting for any content here!"

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Known almost as much for her serious, stoic presence as she is for her prowess in the Octagon, it was important for Rodriguez to explain to her fans that nothing had changed. Sure, there might be a few more images and videos floating around out there, but this was far from a Rocky III moment.

Marina Rodriguez during UFC 300 fight week in Las Vegas, April 2024 (Photo by Savannah Alarcon/Zuffa LLC)
Marina Rodriguez during UFC 300 fight week in Las Vegas, April 2024 (Photo by Savannah Alarcon/Zuffa LLC)

Not that anyone would think otherwise, although she’s not as serious as you might think. She often pokes fun at herself for the image she’s successfully created. Michelle Waterson-Gomez—an opponent Rodriguez has defeated twice—hilariously got her to break character during a faceoff. But in general, the 36-year-old likes to save the fun and games for after the fights.

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Say what you will about that approach, but it’s one that has served Rodriguez well. She started training just over a decade ago and went pro just two years later, rattling off ten consecutive wins. The tenth win was a key one: an emphatic TKO victory over Maria Oliveira on the Brazilian edition of Dana White’s Contender Series in 2018. She secured a UFC contract with that performance, and never looked back.

Full Fight | Marina Rodriguez vs Amanda Ribas
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Full Fight | Marina Rodriguez vs Amanda Ribas
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In the six years since, she’s established herself as a perpetual threat at 115 pounds. Fighting largely on main cards and main events, she’s notched wins over the likes of Mackenzie Dern, Amanda Ribas and Tecia Torres, to name a few. She narrowly lost a split decision to two-time strawweight champ Carla Esparza and, most notably, holds a win over the fighter competing for the strap this Saturday in the co-main event: Yan Xiaonan.

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It's her performance against those last two names that are the clearest evidence she’s got the goods to take that belt for herself one day. She gets out of bed armed with that knowledge, and it’s the relentless drive towards that goal that lends to what might be perceived as a serious persona.

Opponents Marina Rodriguez of Brazil and Michelle Waterson-Gomez face off during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on September 22, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
"The Karate Hottie" gets Rodriguez to smile during faceoffs, Sept. 2023 (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

“We’ve been expecting this for a long time,” she tells UFC.com. “I have a win over Yan, I won the fight by decision. So being on the same card is extra motivation to show my work inside the cage, to win the fight and to fight one of these Chinese girls in the future.”

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To get to that precipice, she’ll need to get past another former champ: Jéssica Andrade. One of the most dangerous veterans on the roster, “Bate Estaca” brings a thrilling résumé of finishes and performance bonuses to the contest.

Marina Rodriguez from her Instagram
From her Instagram @marinarodriguezmma

“Jéssica is very experienced,” she agrees, “She has had many fights in the promotion, and we have studied each fight so we can see her growth and every technical detail. So it makes it more interesting to try to unravel the mystery of the fight.”

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There might be less mystery with Andrade than other opponents, due in part to Rodriguez’s admitted scholarly eye for “every technical detail,” but also because they have trained together in years past and today share a manager.

“We know a lot about each other, because of the manager. The negotiation (to fight) happened naturally, because the division is mixed up, and I wanted a fight that would get me closer—if I win—to a title shot. And Jéssica was the perfect one among the Top 5.”

Rise Of Marina Rodriguez
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Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

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Rise Of Marina Rodriguez
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The fact that both fighters have achieved their positions in the division on the strength of their respective striking games is the closest thing to a guarantee that audiences Saturday will witness fireworks.

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Rodriguez is ready to steal the show with her Brazilian compatriot. It will be a tall order considering they are the third prelim fight on an inarguably stacked UFC 300 card featuring 13 bouts, but with her trademark poker face, she conveys her certainty.

“I've done this once. In Abu Dhabi (at UFC 257), I took the spotlight away from (Conor) McGregor, and I got the bonus. I think that great cards make me fight better and show my potential, and this willingness to win can result in a bonus.”

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