Yan, whose fighting name is “No Mercy”, claimed the vacant UFC bantamweight title after he defeated the legendary Jose Aldo with a fifth-round stoppage in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on July 12.
The 27-year-old Yan, originally from Yekaterinburg in eastern Russia, has been based at the Tiger Muay Thai & MMA training camp in Chalong for the past six years under the tutelage of coach John Hutchinson.
He contested the vacant bantamweight title with Aldo after the previous holder Henry Cejudo surprisingly announced his retirement following a successful title defense over Dominick Cruz at UFC 249 on May 8.
The fight was relatively evenly contested for the first three rounds before Yan upped his game and turned on the style in the final two rounds. In the fifth, he held Aldo up against the cage and dropped him with hard punches, including two big uppercuts, before unleashing a ferocious onslaught until referee Leon Roberts stepped in to stop the fight.
‘A good knockout’
Yan landed 194 significant strikes during the bout with Aldo, the most in a single fight in the history of the UFC bantamweight division, including an impressive 62 significant strikes in the final round – more than Aldo had absorbed in his nine previous UFC fights.
“In the beginning, I wanted to put pressure on him, make him tired and then start attacking after the third round. That’s exactly what happened,” Yan said post-fight through an interpreter.
“In the first and second round, he had hard punches and low kicks. I waited and pressured him. After the second round, I started to work. It was a good knockout. I liked it,” he added.
Yan joins current lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov as only the second Russian fighter to win a UFC title and is now tied for the longest winning streak in UFC bantamweight history. He is targeting Aljamain Sterling for his next fight.
Lost in translation
When Yan first arrived at the Tiger Muay Thai camp in Phuket six years ago there were clear language and communication barriers.
“When we first met he had no English and I had a very thick Irish accent that anyone had trouble with. We actually laughed because we didn’t know what we were each saying,” coach Hutchinson told The South China Morning Post.
“But we didn’t need it. I knew from that day this kid was something special. I wrote down in my notes from that day that he’d be world champion and I actually showed him that here in Abu Dhabi to remind him how far he has come.”
Those motivational words coupled with tremendous talent and desire to work hard and achieve have fared very well for Yan so far. Although it has been a long road one gets the feeling his real journey is only just beginning.