UFC president Dana White signed undefeated bantamweight prospect Matthew Lopez to a deal after watching him defeat Eli Finn via first-round TKO at RFA 37, but longtime veteran Rani Yahya plans to ruin his plans Wednesday night.
One of the most decorate grapplers in MMA, Yahya enters the Octagon for the 10th time at Sioux Falls’ UFC Fight Night 91, and hopes that a win over a fighter signed on White’s show Lookin’ for a Fight gets him more respect with the promotion.
"He’s making his debut, but he has some attention around him after Dana White signed him, so a good performance against him puts me in a good spot in the UFC," Yahya told MMA Fighting. "Dana White is a great promoter and made the right choice by signing him. He deserves to be in the UFC, but I’m confident and prepared. I’ve fought fighters who are more experienced, former contenders. This is my 10th fight in the UFC and I’m used to competing in the Octagon, so I will surprise Dana White."
Lopez makes his UFC debut after racking up a perfect 8-0 record with seven stoppage victories, including four submissions, but tapping an ADCC champion is no easy feat.
"He’s undefeated with most of his wins in the first round," Yahya said of Lopez. "He has good back control and a good submission, but I know that already. I’m a grappler and that’s natural for me to defend it, but I still worked a lot to avoid any surprises in this area."
"I’m ready to anything, to either submit him or knock him out," he continued. "I’m not in a hurry. I’m prepared to win in the first round or go three rounds. I prepared for everything. In a perfect world you want a quick victory, of course. I had quick wins in the past, and it’s great when that happens, but I’m ready for a war."
Unbeaten as a bantamweight, Yahya hasn’t fought in a year. According to the Brazilian, he suffered an internal bleeding during his unanimous decision win over Masanori Kanehara last July, and that sidelined him for six months.
"After my last fight I received a six-month medical suspension because I had a bleeding in my liver after getting hit in the body early in the fight," Yahya said. "That affected my performance in the fight. I guess I also didn’t cut the weight properly, did the wrong diet, and something went wrong. I felt bad right in the first minutes of the fight.
"After the fight, I felt terrible and threw up in front of the doctors and they sent me to the hospital. I did some exams and they told me I wasn’t 100 percent, and asked me to do more exams when I arrived in Brazil. I did it twice, and was fine."