ELMONT, N.Y. — A highly anticipated featherweight main event between Yair Rodriguez and Brian Ortega ended unfortunately on Saturday, when Ortega was unable to continue after appearing to dislocate his right shoulder.
The injury occurred at the 4:11 mark of the opening round. Ortega had just taken Rodriguez to the ground, and was pulling his right arm away from an armbar attempt Rodriguez threw up from his back. The submission was not tight at all, and Ortega did not appear to be in any danger, but the movement of pulling his arm back apparently caused the discoation. Ortega injured the same shoulder in 2016 and underwent surgery.
Officially, the circumstances resulted in a victory for Rodriguez via TKO.
“I already told him we can run it back, but I would rather do it for a championship,” Rodriguez said. “But I’m OK with whatever the UFC decides. This was unfortunate. I was prepared to win, but that’s not the way I wanted.”
The fight, which headlined UFC Fight Night inside UBS Arena, carried high stakes in the 145-pound division. An impressive win by either Rodriguez (14-3) or Ortega (15-3) could have produced a title shot against Alexander Volkanovski. Josh Emmett (18-2) is also in the running for a title fight.
It was shaping up to be an interesting one before the injury. Rodriguez, of Mexico, looked sharp on the feet. He snapped Ortega’s head back multiple times with popping right hands. Ortega did open an early cut under Rodriguez’s right eye, however, with a left hook. Ortega did well controlling Rodriguez against the fence at moments, as he looked for an opportunity to take him down.
The two featherweights are friends, and they both said they preferred not to face each other going into Saturday. Now, it appears they could face each other twice.
“I don’t know how it happened,” Ortega said. “I wanted to keep going. I’ve had two shoulder surgeries, and I might need a third one. The fight was going good. I got him to the ground. I was not in submission danger. [Yair], it is what it is. If you don’t get a title fight, I want to get in and lets do this right. This is not the right way. I’m so sorry. I want both of us to leave it all in here.”
Officially, Ortega, of Los Angeles, drops to 0-2 in his last two appearances. He unsuccessfully challenged Volkanovski for the title last October. Rodriguez picks up his first win since 2019.