Rani Yahya is happy with his performance at UFC on FOX 28, scoring his ninth submission victory in the UFC/WEC with a third-round finish over Russell Doane, but fighting last Saturday in Orlando will be unforgettable for a different reason.
Yahya’s mother Maria Abadia de Camargos died 11 days before his fight, after battling lupus for 30 years, and the Brazilian fighter spent the last few weeks flying between Brazil and Florida to visit her in the ICU and then be at her funeral.
”It was f****ng sad, man,” Yahya told MMA Fighting after the win. “I was at American Top Team and had to come to Brazil to see her intubated. It was tough. I still had to train twice a day during all that, there was no day off.
”At the end of the day, that gave me more motivation to go in there and win to dedicate it to her because she would never allow me to pull out of a fight because of her. She was my biggest fan, she was always watching me fight live in Brazil, and she was very proud of me.”
Yahya never considered pulling out of the fight, especially after turning down an offer to face Marlon Vera at UFC Belem because she was in the ICU. Yahya, who accepted the fight in Orlando because he thought his mother would get better, decided to honor her by competing in the Octagon, but it wasn’t easy.
Yahya flew from Florida to Brasilia when his mother was in the ICU. When doctors told him she was stable, he returned to Florida to train at ATT. A week later, on Feb 13, he got a call informing him that his mother had passed away.
Yahya asked his family to wait for him, bought a flight ticket for the next day and went to Brasilia for his mother’s funeral. He stayed focused, on diet, and trained twice the following day before flying back to Florida again.
”When I got back to ATT on Saturday for my last sparring session, I was completely tired,” Yahya said. “I think it was my worst sparring in five years. Coach Conan (Silveira) said ‘I won’t make it easier for you,’ and I said ‘cool, I need more people like you in my life.’ I wanted to throw up the entire time. I was beaten, taken down and submitted. My confidence disappeared after that.”
The experienced fighter got some rest, his coaches talked a lot with him about everything that happened over the past few days, and he was confident again
”That’s how I wanted it to be,” Yahya said. “I wanted to fight to honor my mother.”
Yahya entered the Octagon and got the job done, and now he’s targeting a fight in May in South America, either at UFC Chile on May 19 or UFC 224 in Brazil on May 12.
”Every reporter asked me what’s next, many people saying I deserve a top 10 now, a bigger name, and that’s what I think should happen,” Yahya said. “I’m fighting for a long time and only fought once on a main card in the UFC. It’s time to fight someone from the top and show my potential.”
The jiu-jitsu ace originally mentioned Bryan Caraway’s name as a potential opponent, but later realized that he has a fight booked at Saturday’s UFC 222, facing Cody Stamann. “If he wins, I’m still interested,” Yahya said.
Aljamain Sterling, who Yahya was supposed to fight in December but withdrew due to a neck injury, is also an idea that interests him, but he’s already booked against Brett Johns on April 21.
That leaves Yahya with an interesting option to call out: Urijah Faber. The former WEC champion and UFC Hall of Famer has retired from the sport, but Yahya believes he will come back eventually.
”I think that a fight with Urijah Faber will be interesting,” Yahya said. “He’s a nice guy, an icon of the sport, and it would be good to fight him because we’re tied with most submissions in the bantamweight history. It makes perfect sense.
”I know that my next fight won’t be for the title, so I want the highest-ranked guy possible. You only live once, so I want to put on my best performances now.”