Karina Rodriguez is setting new boundaries for women’s MMA in Mexico.

The veteran flyweight became the second Mexico-born fighter to become a champion under a major MMA promotion and the first to achieve a title training on Mexican soil. Rodriguez (9-4) was crowned the Invicta FC flyweight champion last May by outpointing Daiana Torquato in the main event of Invicta FC 44.

She joined Jessica Aguilar, who won a WSOF title fighting out of American Top Team, among the only two female Mexicans who have won major belts. The Invicta FC championship belt was a monumental moment for Rodriguez and one that she had been in search of for many years.

“It did feel different because the pressure was different,” Rodriguez told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “In the other fights, I was a bit more relaxed. In this one, I was a little more pressured that I needed to win the belt, that I had the opportunity before and I wasn’t able to pull it off, and also the interviews in the lead up about potentially being the first Mexican female champion (in a major promotion).

“So I did feel that pressure, that responsibility of achieving my expectations on myself and others who expected the Invicta FC belt to go to Mexico. I did feel the pressure, but once I got my hand raised it was a feeling of achievement, as it was a goal that I had set years ago.”

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Rodriguez, who trains out of Lobo Gym and Brazilian Warriors in Mexico, admits it took a while for the feeling to settle in that she made MMA history for Mexico.

“I’m not going to lie to you, at the beginning I did take a bit to get that feeling that I was champion and process all that,” Rodriguez said. “But little by little, I began to realize all the work that I had done, all the fights, that long journey to the belt.

“Now reaffirming myself as champion is something that’s very important for me. I think the first-time title defense for a fight is something that’s very important. It’s been a very long journey full of many good fights and obstacles, but I’m very happy to be in this position.”

Rodriguez returns to the cage to defend her title against Brazil’s Ketlen Souza at Invicta FC 46 on March 9. The 36-year-old is determined to retain her title, but beyond that, inspire the up-and-coming female fighters in Mexico.

“We’re pioneers of this sport in Mexico,” Rodriguez explained. “We started fighting in small leagues just trying to open that path for the new generations.

“And the fact that a female Mexican was able to crown herself champion, it opens up the doors a lot more and as well as the expectations for the young prospects, who are aiming higher and higher. They now have a path relatively easier to get to these bigger platforms. So being a pioneer and being part of that group of fighters who opened up the path for women’s MMA in Mexico, it fills me with pride.”

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