Rani Yahya doesn’t feel he’s in a great position going into his first fight in 2018.
The jiu-jitsu ace will meet Russell Doane in a bantamweight bout at UFC on FOX 28 in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday night, but told MMA Fighting that he feels that owes something to the promotion after pulling out of a fight with Aljamain Sterling in December.
”An opponent like Sterling would be better to climb the ranking, but I think this is a good fight for my return,” said Yahya, who couldn’t train for three weeks due to a neck injury. “I haven’t fought in six months, and I don’t feel I’m in a position to ask anything for anyone. I think I have something to prove in this fight.”
Asked why he feels he has something to prove against Doane and couldn’t ask for a better ranked opponent, Yahya also revealed an offer to fight at UFC Belem on Feb. 3.
”Because I pulled out of the Sterling fight with an injury and that affects my credibility a little bit,” he said. “Injuries happen, of course, but I pulled out of a fight, didn’t fulfilled what was in my contract, so you’re in a position now that you’re a bit submissive to the UFC.
”After that I had an offer to fight at UFC Belem, but I’d only have three weeks to prepare and had a few things going on in my life, so I was forced to decline it. Because of that, I can’t demand too much.”
Yahya, who defeated Enrique Briones in two minutes in his last fight in August, feels that Sterling would have been a bigger opponent for him, but sees Doane as a good rival for UFC on FOX 28.
Doane is coming off a first-round win over Kwan Ho Kwak last June, a victory that put an end to a four-fight losing streak. Yahya won’t underestimate Doane, but expects him to avoid grappling exchanges at all cost.
”He trains in a team that has good strikers, and I think he will definitely avoid grappling with me,” Yahya said. “He has some wins by knockout, so that’s what I expect him to do.”
”I think I’ll submit him,” he continued. “This is what I like to do. I have excellent coaches in Brasilia and American Top Team and they prepared me to go there and execute my strategy the best way possible. I think I have a good chance at submitting him.”
Yahya vs. Doane takes place in the preliminary portion of UFC on FOX 28, which is headlined by Josh Emmett vs. Jeremy Stephens at the Amway Center in Orlando.