Exclusive: Daniel Rodriguez Banking On UFC ‘War’ With Kelvin Gastelum: ‘The Bigger The Name…’

Rodriguez on fighting Gastelum at UFC Saudi Arabia: "I'm hoping for the finish, but I'm expecting a war".

Drod Vs Lee
(via @d_rod_ufc - Instagram)

Daniel Rodriguez knows what he signed for up this summer.

After suffering back-to-back losses to Neil Magny and Ian Garry in his last fight, the UFC Welterweight will try to get back to winning ways from the other side of the world. Rodriguez is slated to return against Kelvin Gastelum at the UFC’s first event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 22 – headlined by a middleweight title eliminator in Robert Whitaker vs. Khamzat Chimaev.

Rodriguez On Kelvin Gastelum: ‘Last Person I Ever Expected To Be Fighting’

A past champion of “The Ultimate Fighter” at 185lbs, Gastelum looks for hist first win at welterweight in years after dropping a submission loss to Sean Brady at UFC Austin in December. With both fighters coming from California, Rodriguez couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw Gastelum’s name on the dotted line across from his on their fight contract for Saudi Arabia.

“I actually know the guy. We’ve hung out some times, partied… he’s the last person I ever expected to be fighting,” Rodriguez told Middle Easy of Gastelum. “But, you know, I never say no. We’re not friends like that, but we are acquaintances. I’ve never trained with him at all. We’ve had the opportunity [to train], but, things just didn’t work out.

“It’s a fight at the end of the day. I’m pretty sure there’s no bad blood between me and him. It’s kind of one of those things. It’s just like two dogs, the UFC did a great matchup putting this fight together. They know exactly what they’re getting, putting both of us together.”

‘The Bigger The Name, The More I Show Out On Fight Night’

For this upcoming fight, “D-Rod” ventured out to Thailand before setting up shop at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, Nevada. Rodriguez used to train at neighboring Syndicate MMA, but opted for more bodies and bigger ones at in his new home gym of Couture. Rodriguez says he’s been working with top middleweight, Chris Curtis in developing a “pretty solid” game-plan tailored for his former foe Gastelum – who he lost to UFC 287 in a controversial decision win.

With a few more weeks left to go in training camp, Rodriguez reveals his expectations for June 22nd.

“I definitely see myself winning this fight. Kelvin Gastelum’s a really tough opponent. I’m hoping for the finish, but I’m expecting a war, you know? But, I do see myself coming out on top. I’ve always seemed to be the person who rises to the occasion, and the bigger the name, the more I show out on fight night. So, I definitely see myself winning this fight,” Rodriguez added.

What Would A Win Over Gastelum Do For D-Rod?

Just ten fights into his UFC career, Daniel Rodriguez has shared the Octagon with some of MMA’s most recognizable names. Rodriguez’s resume of opponents include, but are not limited to, “Platinum” Mike Perry, Kevin Lee, Neil Magny and most recently Ian Garry. Rodriguez is 2-2 against those big names, but can split the tie and move on to greater things with a win over UFC fan-favorite Gastelum.

“A win this time… I would say possibility of putting me back in the rankings,” Rodriguez said regarding the implications of win over a fighter of Gastelum’s caliber. “It’s been so long, and it’s been such a long camp. I think a win would kind of just like it’d be so satisfying and for my career and not gonna lie f****** financially for my family. I spent like… I’ve been away a long time getting ready for this fight. I’d be able to go back home and be comfortable. So, that’s really the most important me, is just to win this fight and go back home and be with my family.”

Watch D-Rod’s full pre-fight interview below with Middle Easy’s James Lynch:

Published on June 3, 2024 at 6:50 pm
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