With 11 submission victories, Rani Yahya has the most in UFC and WEC bantamweight history. Now, he’s chasing big names.
At UFC Vegas 21 this past Saturday, the jiu-jitsu specialist forced Ray Rodriguez to tap to an arm-triangle choke, his third using that hold in his UFC journey.
Happy to be back to the win column after a majority draw against Enrique Barzola, Yahya has set his next targets.
“Urijah Faber, I think a lot of people would want to see this fight,” Yahya said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “It would be good for him, for me, for the fans, for everyone. People also suggested Dominick Cruz, and that would be awesome. Let’s see if he wants that, if he would agree. I’d be happy to fight him. I wanna go on that direction and fight people with big names.”
Cruz returned from a long layoff earlier this month, defeating Casey Kenney via split decision at UFC 259 earlier this month. Faber has’t competed since a loss to the future bantamweight champion Petr Yan in December 2019, which came five months after he stopped Ricky Simon in under one minute.
“I don’t know if he’s retired again,” Yahya said of Faber. “I think this would be an interesting fight for him. I think it makes sense. We have a lot of opponents in common, we’ve fought in two weight classes, so I think this fight makes a lot of sense.”
Yahya would be down to set the record straight with a rematch against Barzola. But has his eyes on bigger names. The American Top Team fighter also doesn’t want limit himself to the bantamweight division.
Undefeated under the UFC banner, The Ultimate Fighter season 22 winner Ryan Hall was supposed to face Dan Ige that same night in Las Vegas, but he withdrew from the card. The grappling specialist is 4-0 in the company with wins over Artem Lobov, Gray Maynard, B.J. Penn and Darren Elkins.
“I’ll go immediately,” Yahya said of a move up to 145 pounds for a fight with Hall. “I’ll fight Hall immediately. We were on the same brackets in the ADCC, so I’d absolutely do it. I’d move up to fight him now. I wanna go up a division for some fights.”
Yahya and Hall were in collision course at the ADCC in 2009, but Hall was submitted in his quarterfinal clash with Leo Vieira. Yahya, the 2007 ADCC gold medalist, defeated Jeff Glover in his quarterfinal match, but he withdrew from the semifinals due to injury. With Vieira also injured, Hall returned to face Glover for bronze, and won by points.
“He has developed a good [MMA] game for him,” Yahya said. “He attacks with leg locks, he submitted jiu-jitsu world champion B.J. Penn, he submits a lot of people. At the same time he has a plan B, his striking, he throws some kicks, so he was able to come up with a game that makes him dangerous, for sure. He’s the American jiu-jitsu, he does the Imanari roll and goes for the ankle. He has some variations. I have students that are competing under these new rules and we exchange information, they show me what they do, some different heel hooks.
“That’s the type of fight that interests me, fights that make sense and make fans interested. There’s this hype now of me having the most submissions in the history of the division, so I’ll use this hype and this moment to create something for this type of fight.”