Yair Rodriguez: UFC told me title shot is next with win over Brian Ortega

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Yair Rodriguez says he’s on deck for UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski if he can win this weekend.

As Rodriguez (15-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) prepares to face Brian Ortega (13-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC on ABC 3 headliner, the stakes have been boosted.

According to Rodriguez, the UFC brass have informed him that if he secures a victory in the ABC-televised main event at UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y, he will get a crack at reigning champ Volkanovski (25-1 MMA, 12-0 UFC).

“Yes, that has been said to me,” Rodriguez said Monday on “The MMA Hour.” “That’s what we’re looking for. First things first, I’m going to win this fight and then give the champ some time to heal and then go for it. Right now let’s just take it step-by-step. First things first is Brian Ortega.”

Rodriguez hasn’t competed since November when he battled Max Holloway to a decision loss in a Fight of the Year candidate. The Mexican fighter has been on the cusp of a title shot multiple times during his run, but injuries, key losses and other circumstances have prevented him from getting over the hump.

After Volkanovski dismantled Holloway in their trilogy bout at UFC 276 this month, there have been questions about who could be next for him. Josh Emmett has been campaigning for the shot after a five-fight winning streak, and former two-division UFC champ Henry Cejudo is keen to pursue a third belt.

Volkanovski already soundly defeated Ortega at UFC 266 in September, leaving the door open for Rodriguez to push him name to the front of the queue with a solid win.

Rodriguez knows Volkanovski is at the top of the game right now, and although he’s entirely focused on executing his game plan against Ortega, he heaped praise on the champ.

“He looked amazing (against Holloway),” Rodriguez said. “It was eye-opening for me, and I better get ready for that if I want to be the champion. If I want to be champion I’m going to have to put some work because he’s tough. He’s really tough.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ABC 3.