Marina Rodriguez has had an absolutely brutal few days leading into her first-ever UFC headlining role.
Already fighting on short notice Saturday against Michelle Waterson in the flyweight main event of UFC Fight Night, Rodriguez has also had to endure a series of travel issues, including a 20-hour travel day that landed her in the host city two days later than usual.
Rodriguez vs. Waterson was not agreed upon until April 27 and not made official by the UFC until this past Tuesday. The original Fight Night main event this weekend was supposed to be a bantamweight contender bout between former champion TJ Dillashaw and Cory Sandhagen, but Dillashaw withdrew due to an injury.
Meanwhile, due to the short-notice nature of the bout and logistical issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rodriguez was not able to get her visa to enter the United States until Wednesday, her manager, Tiago Okamura, told ESPN. Rodriguez then raced from the U.S. consulate in Porto Alegre, Brazil, to the airport, where airline employees almost did not let her board the plane because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions.
After showing valid credentials, Rodriguez was finally allowed to get on board. It took 20 hours of travel, including layovers in Sao Paulo and Houston, but she finally made it to Las Vegas at 11 a.m. Thursday morning. Normally, UFC fighters arrive for fight weeks on Tuesday for Saturday events. Rodriguez missed UFC Fight Night media day and other typical fight-week activities. Okamura said she was tested for COVID-19 three times before travel and then tested again when she arrived at the host hotel in Vegas on Thursday.
Rodriguez (13-1-2) has just one loss in six UFC fights. ESPN has her ranked No. 6 in the world at strawweight, though this fight will take place a division up at flyweight due to the timing. Rodriguez, 34, is coming off a second-round TKO win over prospect Amanda Ribas in January. Her only UFC loss came against former champion Carla Esparza.
Waterson (18-8), nicknamed "The Karate Hottie," is ESPN's No. 9-ranked strawweight. She is coming off a split-decision win over Angela Hill last September. Waterson, 35, is one of the most popular female fighters on the UFC roster.