Add Adrian Yanez’s name to the increasingly long list of potential contenders to watch at 135 pounds.
Yanez was already building plenty of buzz after scoring a pair of highlight-reel knockouts in 2020, first finishing Brady Huang in 39 seconds to snag a Contender Series contract and then following that with a spectacular first-round head kick KO of Victor Rodriguez in his UFC debut.
But Yanez made his biggest impact yet this past Saturday when he dismantled former Combate Americas champion Gustavo Lopez on the main card of UFC Vegas 22, which aired live on ESPN. Yanez lived up to the hype and then some, netting himself his second $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus in as many octagon appearances.
Now that he’s firmly entrenched in the thick of the UFC’s bantamweight roster, Yanez isn’t in a hurry to jump into the top-10. During an interview on MMA Fighting’s What the Heck, he pointed to names like Max Holloway, Tony Ferguson, Stipe Miocic, and Dustin Poirier as examples of stars who took the long road to the top. Viewing the landscape at 135 pounds, he sees an opportunity to build his own airtight resume.
“I said once and I’ll say it again, it’s a bunch of killers,” Yanez said. “It’s a bunch of killers and it excites me because we have a wave of new ‘35ers who are all tough, all tough killers. We’ve got a wave and you have to separate yourself from that pack and that’s what I plan on doing. I want to be the killer of the killers, that’s exactly what I’m trying to be.
“So seeing all those guys up there just excites me. I want to get better so whenever I fight them it’s super easy for me. I know right now I can go up there and compete with those guys, but I want to be able to go up there and make sure they can’t compete with me. That’s my goal and that’s the biggest thing that I’m trying to do. It just excites me and I know I have so much more to improve and whenever I improve, they’re gonna be in trouble.”
Yanez did have a name in mind following his win over Lopez, fellow 2-0 UFC bantamweight Nate Maness. Maness is currently scheduled to fight Tony Gravely on April 17, but Yanez said he’s already exchanged words with Maness over social media. It’s not due to any actual bad blood, rather Yanez is simply responding to Maness having recently called him out first.
“I even said people are saying you already have a fight lined up, if you have a fight lined up, worry about that one first and then we scrap after,” Yanez said of his conversations with Maness. “That would be a good one. Honestly, the only reason why I really want to get that fight is just because he called me out and in the real world, when someone calls you out you’ve got to answer it otherwise you’re kind of a scared kid—not in those words, but much worse—so I’m just answering the callout and I just wanted to show him, hey, I’m calling you back out, so if anything goes differently, it’s on you.
“It’s not on me, because I’ll sign that contract all day, everyday. But if that fight isn’t there for May 15, I definitely would want to try to get that guy.”
Presented with the possibility of a clash with Montel Jackson, who made quick work of Jesse Strader on Saturday night, Yanez shared an amusing anecdote involving he and Jackson from the weekend.
“Honestly, any matchup. I don’t care who it is,” Yanez said. “You can’t run in the UFC, you can’t run from anybody. You can’t. There’s a lot of people who say you can cherry pick in the UFC, no, you can’t, everybody here is tough. You really can’t pick your next opponent.
“I’m down for anybody. … respect Montel Jackson, respect to him. Some food accidentally got sent to our room that was his. He’s a cool guy.”
Yanez’s top priority right now is a homecoming fight as he has made it clear that he intends to fight at the upcoming UFC 262 event on May 15, which takes place at Toyota Center in his native Houston. The venue holds a special place in Yanez’s heart and has a deep connection to his relationship with his father, who passed away five years ago.
“It would mean a lot,” Yanez said, of fighting at Toyota Center. “This is where I started. Houston is where I had my first fight, Houston is where I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. To me, it’s home. It would be just crazy that I would be able to fight at the Toyota Center because I would be telling my dad every single time he took me to go train, we’d be on Interstate 45, going down and take an exit on Scott, and whenever we took that exit you’d see directly straight across, you’d see the Toyota Center.
“I’d always be telling my dad, one day I’m gonna fight there. I want to fight there in the UFC. My dad looked at me and was like, ‘In due time. You stay consistent, keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll be there. I believe in you.’ To me, it’s just one of those things, it would mean a lot. It would mean more to me than fighting anywhere else, because that’s one thing that I told my dad, that I’m gonna fight there. Another promise to keep, I’ve gotta go out there. Hopefully I get it. I really want to fight May 15.”