As the rest of Russia celebrate two big results, six points and a path into World Cup 2018’s knockout stages, former ACB bantamweight champion, Petr Yan, has been preparing for his UFC debut.
Seven weeks at Tiger Muay Thai’s facility has the blue-chip Russian prospect poised for his Singapore bow against Teruto Ishihara. And despite the jovial scenes the world witnessed after Russia’s second convincing win, this time against Egypt on Tuesday, “No Mercy” has been happy to get by with updates through his social media channels.
(Editor’s note: Quotes in this article have been edited for clarity and concision)
“I’m not a huge football fan, so Instagram updates have been enough for me to keep up to date with the matches,” Yan told MMA Fighting.
“I’m glad that Russia are winning, but I understand that they haven’t faced a strong team yet. There are still a lot of tough games ahead of them. I’m a realist, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that we’re winning, but I think Russia have much better fighters than soccer players. If MMA paid as much as soccer the whole sport would be taken over by Russians.”
Ishihara will make his eighth walk to the Octagon to meet the highly touted European, but the experience the Team Alpha Male proponent boasts has brought no pause to Yan’s confidence. In fact, he thinks the UFC had a specific goal in mind when they matched the bantamweight duo.
“I think because I fought in ACB before signing with the UFC they know I’m capable of a tough test because that’s such a strong organization. They know that I’ve been put in tough positions already,” he explained.
“As far as I’m concerned, Ishihara is just an average fighter in the UFC in terms of the rankings. By putting us together, I think the UFC must want to cut him. I think they want me to get rid of him.”
With just one win in his last four outing, Yan feels as though Ishihara has a lot of pressure on his plate leading into their clash. Given the tremendous amount of expectation Russian fans have for Yan in the UFC, he thinks it’s a level playing field in terms of the burden that the duo have to shoulder in Singapore.
“There is a lot of expectation surrounding my debut and I can feel it. A lot of people are expecting very big things from me, so there is definitely pressure on me. But I understand that Ishihara has pressure as a UFC veteran who is trying o get back in the win column. We both have a different kind of pressure coming into the fight, so I think it’s a level playing field in that respect.”
If Yan is the realist that he claims to be, expect him to scale the UFC’s bantamweight division’s rankings quite quickly. However, he knows that to make big moves he needs to make a big impression against Ishihara.
“I’m thinking about the future already, but I know I’ve got to make a big statement in this fight. I don’t really have one guy that I want to fight in the division. I just know I want to be at the top of the division with the belt.
“I grew up on the streets and since I was kid I never had a choice when it came to who I fought — whoever wanted to fight got a fight. It’s not in my nature to turn down fights, so I’m ready to prove myself to them against whoever they want.”
“I expect to win this fight and to compete in the U.S. as soon as possible because that’s where all the big fights are,” he continued.
“To be honest, I was offered four other fights as well as Ishihara, and the reason why I chose him is because I think I’ll be able to really impress the UFC when we fight. Of course, I’m ready to make a statement, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is. I told you already, I’m from the streets, the school of hard knocks, so I’ll fight anybody.”
That being said, another notch in the win column isn’t all Yan hopes comes from his UFC debut.
“My friends are also expecting me to appear in the EA Sports UFC game too, it’s very important to them. After two fights I think they’ll give me call!” he said.