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Rani Yahya reflects on anger of COVID experience that cancelled UFC fight: ‘It took some time for me to get over that’

Rani Yahya and Kyung Ho Kang will finally meet in the UFC cage this Saturday in Las Vegas.
Zuffa LLC

Rani Yahya and Kyung Ho Kang will collide in a bantamweight bout Saturday night at UFC Vegas 43, a match originally booked for July but called off after the Brazilian tested positive for COVID-19 hours before the Las Vegas event.

Yahya and “Mr. Perfect” were forced to wait almost four months to finally face off inside the UFC cage. Still, Yahya doesn’t regret his decision to not take the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I haven’t gotten it yet, I’m still studying which is the best vaccine and evaluating all this,” Yahya told MMA Fighting. “I know we’ll have to take it at some point. Anyway, I’m still a bit apprehensive about the vaccine, I’m going slow on it, studying which one will be the best vaccine to take. I don’t regret it. It’s part of the process, it was part of the camp.”

Back in June, a few weeks prior to the cancellation of his fight, Yahya told Brazilian website Combate he didn’t plan on getting vaccinated. Only eight of the 94 Brazilian fighters on the UFC roster at the time were openly against the vaccine, Combate reported at the time. Yahya was one of them.

Yahya and Kang made weight for UFC Vegas 33 but were unable to fight, and the Brazilian admits it wasn’t an easy experience to deal with.

“We prepare so much mentally for that and I was kind of angry with everything that was going on. It took some time for me to get over that,” Yahya said. “I started feeling some symptoms the day I tested positive but nothing [major], so I came to the conclusion that it was for the better that it happened. Imagine if I didn’t test positive and got in there when I wasn’t 100 percent.

“I took some time off to recover from COVID and reevaluate many things. I saw all that as a learning experienced for me since the fight didn’t happen. I tend to hold myself responsible for the things that happen. Even if COVID is out there, for whatever reason I still feel responsible for catching COVID that day. I wanted to evaluate everything and see what I could do better this time in this camp.“

Yahya chooses to look the glass half full after being forced to have such a long lead-up to the fight with Kang, and promises that Kang “will pay the price for all this.”

A former champion at ROAD FC in South Korea, Kang joined the UFC in 2013 and has won six of his last seven bouts, but hasn’t entered the cage since 2019.

For Yahya, who has more submission victories (21) than Kang has MMA wins overall (17), “Mr. Perfect” is far from perfect.

“He has many flaws in his game, that’s for sure,” Yahya said. “He’s a grappler that takes people down and controls them from top position and gets the finish when he doesn’t face an offensive guard. He has good takedowns, for sure, but I feel at home on the ground. I also feel I’m superior on the feet. He’s a black belt in taekwondo but he doesn’t use his striking all that much, he prefers to fight on the ground, but that’s my territory. He has 11 submission, but I have almost twice that.”