With the bantamweight division being as interesting as it has been in quite some time, there were many viable contenders that could stand across the octagon from Yan. In the end, former featherweight champion Jose Aldo will get the chance to add his name to a very short list of fighters who have captured titles in multiple weight classes.
The vacant bantamweight championship bout between Yan and Aldo takes place this Saturday night at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi.
After hearing what White had to say, along with the uncertainty around the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Yan was thrilled when he was able to finally put pen to paper.
“I feel good about signing the contract for the title fight,” Yan told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I prepared, I waited and I want the title. It’s my goal.”
It seemed like there would be a lot of excitement surrounding a future 135-pound title fight between Cejudo and Yan before “Triple C” made the decision to call it a career.
Despite the incredible combat sports resume Cejudo has put together, Yan doesn’t quite buy what the Olympic gold medalist was selling.
“Look at this division right now, it’s full of dangerous fighters and contenders,” Yan said. “Cejudo just ran away because it was going to be tough for him. That’s why he retired.”
Aldo was scheduled to face Cejudo for the title in May before the coronavirus postponed multiple events for the promotion. Once the travel bans were put in place internationally, Dominick Cruz ended up getting the shot and was finished in the second round.
When the legendary 145er was slotted back in for a championship opportunity, most believed that Aljamain Sterling was the rightful contender to face Yan for the vacant title. Sterling went on to submit Cory Sandhagen in the first round of their fight at UFC 250.
Sterling is clearly the challenger in waiting, but Yan believes Aldo will be the tougher matchup.
“I believe many people will agree with me that Aldo is more dangerous than Sterling,” Yan explained. “I think he won that fight with Moraes. The first round was close but towards the end, Moraes was just avoiding the fight and running away. Aldo was pushing the action.
“I think Aldo is more versatile. Sterling, he has good jiu-jitsu for sure, but the way he throws his strikes, it’s not very confident. The way he always shoots from far away, you can see it coming and punish him. He has holes in his game. I believe Aldo is more dangerous with his striking and on the ground, too.”
There’s a brief history between Yan and Aldo the began over four years ago. As Yan was beginning his professional career, he flew to Brazil to train at Nova Uniao for a few weeks. Aldo was preparing to face Frankie Edgar for the interim featherweight title at UFC 200.
Former Bellator champion Eduardo Dantas is a teammate of Aldo and remembered Yan’s arrival vividly. In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, Dantas insinuated that Aldo got the best of the exchanges in all facets.
In addition, Dantas gave his prediction on how the fight will play out.
“My hunch is Junior knocks him out in the second round. If he doesn’t knock him out, it would be five rounds of suffering for Yan, getting beat up a lot. Of course that Yan has great cardio and Junior is rising… If I had to guess, I’d bet on Junior by second-round knockout.”
Yan was asked to respond to Dantas’ comments, as well as give his recollection of how training was in Brazil back in May 2016.
“It was more than four years ago and, at that time, Aldo and Dantas were in the prime of their careers while that was the beginning of my pro career,” Yan said. “Even at that time, I was never beaten by them and was always competitive with them. Right now, I believe I’m already on another level and it’s my time. My time has come.
“I understand that Dantas is his training partner and he wants to support him,” Yan continued. “I respect Aldo as an athlete, but for him to knock me out in the second round, I have to tie my hands behind my back.
“I have complete confidence in myself that I will win this fight.”
A big question that surrounds every Aldo fight—especially now that he’s in the bantamweight division—has to do with the scale. Can Aldo make championship weight?
Yan believes his opponent will make it, but that’s not his concern. It’s about performing on fight night and making the longtime, former featherweight king as uncomfortable as possible.
“You have to understand, this is going to be my game. This is going to be my rules,” Yan stated. “I will control the tempo of this fight. I’m gonna control the center and if he controls the center it’s because I’m going to let him.
“I will dictate how this fight will go. I’m just excited about this fight.”
“No Mercy” isn’t going to give any specific predictions on the fight. He’s expecting the best Aldo possible on Saturday night to help christen “Fight Island.”
Yan does promise he will leave it all in the octagon and expects to have a shiny gold belt wrapped around his waist.
“I’m gonna win,” Yan said. “I have one goal in every fight and that’s to win. I always believe in myself and I never doubt myself. I hope it’s going to be my night and I’m glad I’m going to be part of such a big card, such a big event.”