Yair Rodriguez is a cool customer. When we spoke with the "Ultimate Fighter: Latin America" winner he insisted that he hasn't felt an up-tick in pressure since debuting in the UFC.
Take, for instance, his last fight -- a main card thriller in June against top prospect Charles Rosa -- where Rodriguez squeaked out a split decision win at UFC 188 in Mexico City after an impressive performance.
If the young featherweight from Chihuahua didn't look daunted by the bright lights and big stage, it's because he wasn't. "Not really," he told us from the Chicago-area portion of his training camp with coach Israel Martinez, among others.
"Every fight brings the same pressure. It's a fight. It doesn't matter where it happens, if it's on the undercard or on the main card."
Rodriguez is far from cocky, however. To point, he wasn't completely satisfied with his win against Rosa. "I gave up takedowns and my coaches were mad at me," he said.
"My striking was pretty good but even there, my coach Mike [Winkeljohn] was upset with me. I know I can do a better job than that."
Rodriguez's high standards and calm under pressure have been cultivated over years. "I've been training all my life," he explained.
"I've trained since I was five years old and you get used to the pressure. There's pressure from my father, from my coaches. It's normal. I've always been in competition. My whole life has been competition. Competition with myself, with others, even with my family (laughs). It's a good way to be, because you get used to the pressure."
Accordingly, "Pantera" is excited for his Saturday UFC 192 fight against Sam Hooker. Rodriguez simply can't imagine anyone pushing as hard as he does in training.
"He's pretty well-rounded," Rodriguez says of his opponent.
"He pushes forward all the time with power punches. He's got good kicks. He's tough, bro. And, he's taller than me."
Rodriguez knows that digging deep during camp will pay dividends for him in the fight, however. "I try to go deeper in my training every day," he said.
"My coaches push me through it every day. I feel like I cannot be broken. I try to go deep in every sense of life."
That will serve the young fighter well as he pursues some pretty big goals in MMA. "I want to surprise the world," he ended.
"I want to be the new face of this sport."