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Sacramento’s Emmett Challenges Yair Rodriguez For The Interim Featherweight Title In UFC 284’s Co-Main Event


Capping off UFC’s return to Austin, Texas, in the promotion’s event at the Moody Center, top featherweights Josh Emmett and Calvin Kattar squared off in the main event, both with their foot halfway through the door of a potential featherweight title shot.

After five hard-fought rounds, Emmett stood with his arms raised, collecting a split decision victory over the New England Cartel standout in Austin’s Fight of the Night. Despite Emmett deeming his performance a C- at best, the win earned him his first opportunity to capture interim gold.

UFC touches down in Perth, Australia for UFC 284: Makhachev vs Volkanovski on February 11, where current featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski attempts to become the fifth simultaneous UFC “double champ” by moving up to lightweight to fight Islam Makhachev. With Volkanovski currently competing in a different division, it opened the door for an interim title fight for two top contenders.

Josh Emmett celebrates defeating Calvin Kattar in their featherweight fight at the UFC Fight Night event at Moody Center on June 18, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Emmett, after collecting five straight victories inside the Octagon, earned one of the two spots in Saturday’s co-main event. Standing across from him is Mexico’s Yair Rodriguez, who comes in fresh off a first-round TKO victory over former title challenger Brian Ortega.

The meeting between these two combatants was announced back in November during UFC 281: Adesanya vs Pereira, giving Emmett the most time he’s ever had to prepare for a bout in his 11-fight UFC career.

“This fight week feels the same as any other fight; it’s just another opponent in front of me,” Emmett said. “I’ve been training so hard this camp. It’s the best I’ve ever felt. It’s the longest camp I’ve ever had. We came out here a week-and-a-half early to acclimate to the time change and it’s been nothing but amazing out here.

“As far as this camp went, it’s the longest notice I’ve ever had. Before that, it was six-and-a-half weeks, [but] I’ve been training 10 to 12 weeks super hard and I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. Everything aligned at once in the perfect moment.”

It’s been a long time coming for Emmett, who’s had his eyes set on fighting for UFC gold since the first day he set foot in Team Alpha Male’s training center in Sacramento, California. Team Alpha Male, founded by UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber, has hosted some of UFC’s elite talent, including former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt.

However, the last time an athlete held UFC gold at Emmett’s gym was over six years ago, when Garbrandt defeated UFC legend and commentator Dominick Cruz at UFC 207. So not only fighting for himself, Emmett is keen on being the one to bring a UFC belt back to Sacramento.

“I got into MMA because I only wanted to fight for the UFC and to become a world champion,” Emmett said. “I come from one of the best camps in the world for lighter weights and they’ve developed world champions and number one contenders. I knew exactly where I stacked up from day one. It’s been a dream of mine and we’re going to make it a reality come fight night.

“I started training at Urijah’s gym back in 2006. I’ve been doing this for a long, long time, but Team Alpha Male in Sacramento hasn’t touched UFC gold in over six years, so I’m going to be the first featherweight to bring a UFC title back to Sacramento and Team Alpha Male.

“The energy has been amazing. Everyone’s there to support each other and the team. Local people around Sacramento are just pumped for this moment and the entire town is behind me.”

Currently ranked No. 2 in the UFC featherweight rankings, Rodriguez is Emmett’s toughest opponent on paper to date. This has only fueled Emmett’s fire for the last 12 weeks. Knowing Rodriguez is in the same position, Emmett knows he needs to rise to the occasion and outwork Yair if he wants to get his hand raised.

“Yair is one of the best fighters in the world; he’s super elusive and dynamic,” Emmett said. “You can’t really bring anyone in [to training camp] to emulate him exactly to the tee but you can have people throw things that he does.”

One common slight thrown Emmett’s way from fans is that he is overconfident with his patented overhand right, a punch that has stopped multiple opponents on his path to UFC 284’s co main event. Although it’s a punch you see quite often from Emmett, don’t be surprised if the former NAIA wrestler has other surprises for Rodriguez and the fans on fight night.

“There’s a lot of things that I can do that fans haven’t seen me do yet,” Emmett said. “I can do it all. I come from a wrestling background; I can take people down and grind ‘em out. I can submit people. Also, people were telling me I couldn’t stand with certain [opponents] and what do I do? I go out there and stand the entire time and land the more powerful shots.

“There’s no featherweight that possesses the type of power that I do. People say that I’m just going to throw the overhand right, and I will. I have 25 minutes to fight somebody, and I only have to land one, and I guarantee I’ll land it.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to get my hand raised.”

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