The timing couldn’t be better for Yancy Medeiros’s first headlining opportunity.
The 30-year-old from Wai’anae, Hawaii faces Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in the main event of UFC Austin this Sunday. Medeiros has the opportunity to increase his unbeaten streak to four straight, a run that coincided with his move up to the 170-pound division.
Medeiros’ transition to a new weight class was necessitated by a number of factors, and now that its done, he can focus strictly on performing and not on managing his body to beat the scale. It’s worked out so far for Medeiros, who has emerged as a legitimate contender after beating Alex Oliveira in a highlight-reel brawl last December which ultimately captured second-place honors on MMA Fighting’s ‘Fight of the Year’ list.
“I just think the move in the weight class is just less of a strain for me in every aspect. Emotionally, physically, financially,” Medeiros said Monday on The MMA Hour. I mean, if I was making McGregor money, I’d be hiring a nutritionist and I’d make that 155, I’d be in tip-top shape. But Hawaii is expensive, Hawaiians love to eat, and I ain’t got that type of money, so we make the adjustments and I feel that my coaches and everybody around me is just — I can take more damage as you can see.
“The last fight, the plan wasn’t to block all those punches with my face. I feel like I’m a lot more durable, not that I like to take punches, but I can take it but I can dish it out also. I just feel like welterweight — last year I wanted to show the UFC and everybody in welterweight that I’m relevant, that I belong in this weight class, and I feel I did that.”
The TKO win over Oliveira was Medeiros’ third straight finish and the pair earned UFC 218’s ‘Fight of the Night’ award, the fifth post-fight bonus of Medeiros’ UFC career. Being granted a main event opportunity is a strong indicator that Medeiros has caught the attention of UFC officials, but now that he has it, he doesn’t plan to start getting involved in the politics of the business.
If anything, he’s more confident than ever that his in-cage results will speak for themselves.
“This year, I want to make moves and show the UFC that I’m here to be an investment, and not an asset,” Medeiros said. “I want to be an investment to this company and this is the type of move they’re gonna do. They gave me this main event shot and yes, I feel like I need to be at the top and I’m gonna strive to be there. I train with the best martial artists in the world. I train with world champs and I just feel that this is my calling, this is my time. They’re gonna give me this situation.
“Everybody out there’s talking about what they deserve, what they need, what they want to get paid and all that and I’m just talking with my hands. And UFC’s gonna keep giving me these opportunities and I’m gonna keep swinging.”
Medeiros is definitely not looking past Cerrone, even though “Cowboy” is coming off of back-to-back-to-back losses. Considering those fights came against top contenders Darren Till, Robbie Lawler, and Jorge Masvidal, it’s understandable that Medeiros still has high expectations for his matchup with Cerrone.
“I’m expecting the best Donald Cerrone there is,” Medeiros said. “I’ve taken losses and I feel that that only makes me want to get better. Yes, he’s lost three times, but he lost against three hammers, he lost against three good fighters, all top contenders and they’re all in the top 10 or even higher up in rank. So I ain’t taking anything away from Donald.”
Medeiros was originally looking to fight at UFC 222 on March 3 in Las Vegas — fondly referred to by Hawaiians as “the ninth island” — even before he knew that his friend and countryman Max Holloway was scheduled to defend the featherweight championship against Frankie Edgar on the same card. (Holloway would later withdraw due to injury.)
Instead, Medeiros will be fighting in Texas for the first time, a booking that was arranged with zero fuss on his side.
“Let’s do it. I’m your huckleberry,” Medeiros said. “I tell everybody the story came about, my manager sent me a screenshot, ‘Cowboy’ asking me — I believe it was Christmas Eve — he did a post or something about him asking me for a fight. My manager screen-shotted that, I was like, ‘Hell yeah, call up Sean Shelby. Tell him I’ll fight him March 3.’ Called Sean Shelby up, came back with a main event Feb. 13. I was like, ‘Yeehaw, let’s do this.’”