It has been hailed as one of the greatest knockouts in UFC history but Mexican Yair Rodriguez has opened up about what it took to get in the ring for the stunning finish.
Rodriguez landed the upward right elbow on “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung to leave his opponent in a crumpled mess on the canvas.
The knockout came milliseconds before the final bell rang with the knockout officially ruled at the 4:59 mark of the fifth and final round.
Rodriguez’s win marked his successful return to the UFC after he was released from the promotion for turning down two fights before returning in June.
Since he had returned, he had already turned one fight down before taking the fight against “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung at UFC Fight Night 139.
But it wasn’t easy for the Mexican, having to overcome plenty of hurdles to get in the ring, let alone pull off the last second win.
Speaking on ESPN’s Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show, Rodriguez revealed a tough year out of the sport, dealing with death and health issues that plagued him up until showtime.
“This has been the best fight of my life because of a lot of things,” Rodriguez said.
“I went through a lot of loss last year. One of those was my grandfather, and the other was my taekwondo instructor from when I was a kid. He died from cancer. This fight was for them.
“I went into this fight knowing that I was sick. I don’t know how people do it. Sometimes we think we are warriors but [not compared] to those people who are fighting against sickness.
“This fight was for them. They are going through a rough time. I was trying to put that out of my mind. This was for my grandfather, my family, my friends and especially for myself.”
Rodriguez was struggling with his health before the fight with a cyst on his liver, but that wasn’t the worst of it.
“I didn’t want to say anything before the fight because if something happened with my health and I’m not able to fight, it’ll be another big hit for me and my career, especially since because I’ve been out the last 18 months,” he said.
“I went to the hospital on the first day of this month. On November 1, I was pretty dehydrated and my kidneys were having a failure and high blood pressure. I didn’t know what was going on.
“I think it was something I ate in Mexico before I started training camp. I dropped 10 pounds in five days without even trying. It was really rough for me to make weight.”
Since the fight, he’s been dealing with a broken nose and said “I feel pain in every single part of my body”.
But after such a stunning finish, Rodriguez is on the rise.
While the stunning elbow looked to be a lucky reflex move, the 26-year-old Mexican said he’d practiced strike and was waiting for an opening.
“Nobody taught me (how to throw that elbow). It was something I saw Cowboy (welterweight fighter Donald Cerrone) doing in the back and I started practicing it,” Rodriguez said.
“We knew Korean Zombie opens up a lot with the punches. He always comes with hooks, hooks, hooks and then sometimes he goes from the inside. I knew if I could get him to come my way and go under him, even with a kick in the middle, with a punch in the middle, with a flying knee, I knew it would be there.
“The last second was perfect. The momentum, everything was perfect. I made him react as I wanted him to react the whole fight like that. Sometimes when I wanted him to react that way, he was too aggressive that I couldn’t counter.
“Whenever you think everything is over, that’s when you put your hands down and it’s what happened.”
Amazingly, the card had Rodriguez losing the fight had he not knocked Sung Jung out.
The judges had given four of the rounds to the Korean, and just one to Rodriguez.
But the stunning knockout earned Rodriguez $100,000 in Fight Night bonuses for both Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night and should leave him a frontrunner for Knockout of the Year.
Helwani even called it a contender for Fight of the Year.
Following the fight, both competitors were sent to hospital with social media going crazy for a photo showing the stunning act of respect after the incredible brutality of a UFC fight.
“What other sport produces moments like that?” Helwani said.
“This is beautiful stuff. My colleague Jeff Wagenheim said “I feel a little funny about it all, yes you love to see the respect but you don’t want to see them get hospitalised” — I mean, that goes without saying. But to see that respect, that admiration afterwards, it’s beautiful.”
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