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Marina Rodriguez believes title shot comes with UFC Fight Night 214 win: 'I'm going to be the next challenger'

Rodriguez hopes to dispatch of Amanda Lemos and fight the winner of Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili at UFC 281.

LAS VEGAS – If Marina Rodriguez is being honest, she wasn't terribly excited about accepting a matchup with Amanda Lemos.

After all, Rodriguez currently sits at No. 3 in the UFC's official strawweight rankings, and she appears very much in line for a potential title shot. Meanwhile, Lemos is a little further down the list at No. 7 and has yet to really establish herself as one of the division's elite contenders.

Still, when UFC matchmakers put the offer on the table, Rodriguez said she didn't hesitate.

"To be honest, this fight doesn't make a lot of sense when you look at the UFC rankings, but as a UFC employee, I know that I've got to accept other fights to be able to fight for the title," Rodriguez said in her native Portuguese.

While there were discussions of the matchup taking place at this past month's UFC 280 event in Abu Dhabi, it was ultimately set for this Saturday's UFC Fight Night 214 card at the UFC Apex. When a planned headliner between featherweight contenders Bryce Mitchell and Movsar Evloev was scrapped due to injury, Rodriguez (16-1-2 MMA, 6-1-2 UFC) and Lemos (12-2-1 MMA, 6-2 UFC) were elevated to the night's main event, which meant what was originally a three-round matchup was changed to five.

Rodriguez said none of those adjustments proved a concern.

"All those changes are good for me, and I got one week more to do my training camp," Rodriguez told MMA Underground. "I like fighting here. The Apex is more easygoing. It's not craziness like a pay-per-view card, and I feel very comfortable fighting five rounds, so I'm good to go."

Rodriguez currently owns a four-fight winning streak, a run she built following a narrow split-decision loss in 2020 to Carla Esparza, the division's current champion. Meanwhile, Lemos is coming off a July submission of Michelle Waterson-Gomez but was beaten in April in the first round against Jessica Andrade.

Still, Rodriguez said she's taking the challenge very seriously.

"I know she's very tough," Rodriguez said. "We are both aggressive strikers, so I'm 100 percent confident that our fight has everything to be the 'Fight of the Night.'"

A victory could prove quite valuable for Rodriguez. After all, her division's title is on the line just one week later, at the blockbuster UFC 281 event in New York, when Esparza faces former champion Zhang Weili in the night's co-main event. Picking up an impressive victory just seven days prior could go a long way toward securing Rodriguez a crack at the winner.

"I'm very confident that if I defeat Amanda, no matter how, I'm going to be the next challenger," Rodriguez said. "If everything goes perfectly, I'm going to be in New York to see that fight."

First, of course, Rodriguez has to deal with the task at hand. She is currently favored to do so at SISportsbook.com, sitting as a -213 favorite, with Lemos as the underdog at +175. But if she's successful, a title shot could come next, and Rodriguez says it matters not who is standing on the other side of the cage.

"For me, to be honest, it doesn't matter," Rodriguez said. "The only thing that matters, I'm going to be there. I'm going to be ready."

UFC Fight Night 214 streams live on ESPN+ (4 p.m. ET)

This story first published at SI.com.