Coming off a big win just four days ago in Sioux Falls, Rani Yahya is already eyeing his next fight. He submitted newcomer Matthew Lopez, who came off of Dana White’s ‘Lookin for a Fight’ show in a thrilling back and forth fight.
The third round arm triangle finish marked Yahya’s 17th career submission win as the 3 time world jiu-jitsu champion put on a beautiful display of grappling. With no opponent in mind, Yahya would love to fight in his hometown of Brasilia.
Seeming to have found his groove at bantamweight, Yahya put on another impressive performance when he took out undefeated prospect Matthew Lopez. To the surprise of many, Lopez took a gamble when he willingly went to the ground with Yahya throughout the fight which ended up costing him. Lopez may have been right in Yahya’s world but he was able to hold his own.
“I knew it was going to be a tough fight,” Yahya said. “My game plan was to strike to loosen him up a little bit and then take him to the ground and finish. That was my plan A. I also knew the fight could take other directions which ended up happening. He tried to submit me a few times which was actually making my job easier because he was accepting the ground game. I knew he had some good submission skills.”
Another surprise was Yahya’s much improved striking where he used his strikes to set up his grappling. Despite being a veteran of the game, he came in as a slight underdog and his featured Fight Pass prelim spot was more to do with the introduction of Lopez. For Yahya, it was an opportunity to put on a show.
“I kind of felt that,” Yahya said on being underestimated. “I felt that I owed the UFC a good performance so I liked being underestimated in that situation. I feel that I perform better that way. It was great to fight on Fight Pass, a great opportunity. I definitely gained some respect from a lot people. Many people liked the fight.”
Entering into this contest, Yahya was coming off a one year layoff. Despite coming very close to rejecting the fight, we saw a rejuvenated version of him, displaying much improved striking.
“I’ve been dealing with a lot injuries,” Yahya said. “I almost rejected the fight when Sean Shelby offered it to me because of all of the pain I was in. Every day during training camp I was doing some kind of physical therapy to recover. During the time off, I knew I could improve a lot so I tried to evolve every single day and learn new things and I’m glad that it worked.”
Continuing to grow fight by fight, Yahya draws inspiration from arguably the best jiu-jitsu practitioner in MMA, Demian Maia and even expressed interest in training with him. Yahya like Maia submits most of his opponents and continues to enforce his submission game despite the stylistic match up. A jiu-jitsu practitioner the majority of his life, he continues to use his world class submission game to finish opponents.
“I started with BJJ when I was 11 years old. I won the worlds as a blue, purple and brown belt and then I earned my black belt and switched to MMA. All the BJJ tournaments were very important to me and my confidence on the ground came from those times. Demian has the best BJJ in MMA. Many years ago, fighters developed the anti jiu-jitsu and Demian is the one who has the best answer for that. He’s still winning without taking risks and somehow he closes the distance without throwing any strikes, so he is pretty amazing.”
With his eyes on the Brasilia card in September, Yahya is determined to get on the card but has no opponent in mind. There are plenty of young rising contenders in the bantamweight division and he would be a stern test for any top contender.
“I want to fight in Brasilia, I believe I deserve it. I’ve been traveling to fight for many years during my career and it’s tough to travel to fight. For this one I got on 3 airplanes and the longest one was 11 hours. On top of that, we have to get adapted to the weather, time difference and food. I felt really good when I fought at home a couple of years ago and it would be a dream come true if that happened again. I don’t mind who the opponent is.”
Even though he doesn’t train at one of Brazil’s renowned gyms, Yahya feels confident that he has the right support system at Constrictor Team to catapult him to success.
“Constrictor team is growing a lot, there’s another UFC fighter who’s been winning, Renato Carneiro. All the other fighters are doing great on other shows that they’re fighting in. We have excellent coaches; Ataide Junior for BJJ, Gabriel de Oliveira for boxing and Thiago Castilho for Muay Thai. It’s been working for us.”
A late starter in the sport, he transitioned from jiu-jitsu to MMA at the age of 18. Having come a long way from his grappling days, the 31 year old Yahya is quietly closing in on the bantamweight ranks and there’s no better time than now where the division is booming.
“I started when I was 18 years old, it was a dream for me,” Yahya said. “The sport was called Vale Tudo back then. I got to do 3 fights in one night and I also had bare knuckle fights. I’m very glad to be where I am today and I hope to achieve many more dreams.”
Surveillance Video Shows Conor McGregor Smash Phone
In a new video released by TMZ Sports, UFC star is shown knocking a phone down and smashing it in front of the Fountainebleau hotel located in Miami, Florida.
In true McGregor fashion, he followed up the destruction of the phone by doing his famous “billionaire strut.”
McGregor got into an altercation with Ahmed Abdirzak who was following and filming McGregor with his cell phone while McGregor and his entourage were leaving the hotel.
McGregor reportedly extended his hand to offer a hand shake, only to pull it back and smack the phone out of Abdirzak’s hand and proceeding to stomp on it.
After a few stomps, McGregor picks up the phone and walks away. He was later arrested, that same day, and has been charged with felony robbery and misdemeanor criminal mischief, which could land him in prison for up to 6 years.
McGregor has pled not guilty on all charges and is scheduled for trial beginning in May.
Abdirzak filed a lawsuit against McGregor stemming from the incident, but dropped his suit after the two sides worked out a settlement.
Abdirzak was reportedly demanding north of $15,000.
INTERVIEW: John Kavanagh Talks Brave CF 13 in Belfast, Frans Mlambo’s Title Fight and SBG Ireland
Renowned head coach of SBG Ireland, John Kavanagh has helped put Irish MMA on the map. With his star student and multiple time UFC champion, Conor McGregor taking over the MMA world, the two have opened up unlimited doors for the rest of the team.
Today, Kavanagh is leading some of the younger generation to world title fights and global organisations. On June 9th, one of his promising young fighters, Frans Mlambo will get a shot at gold when he takes on Stephen Loman for the Brave Combat Federation bantamweight title.
The two met back in the promotion’s first ever show in Bahrain when Loman picked up a unanimous decision win over Mlambo. It was a learning experience for the young South African who has picked up 3 straight finishes since. Kavanagh is confident that the former IMMAF world champion, Mlambo has all the tools to become champion.
Also competing on the Brave CF 13 card from SBG Ireland, is Cian Cowley (0-1) who takes on Daniel Olejniczak (2-1-1) and Tommy Martin (6-4) who takes on Wales’ Aidan James (1-0).
I spoke to John Kavanagh on the upcoming Brave CF 13 show, Mlambo’s improvements and the team’s preparation for their upcoming bouts. Check out the interview below.
Farah Hannoun: Brave Combat Federation are making their first trip to Europe, you’ve witnessed the organization’s growth so how excited are you to see them go to Belfast?
John Kavanagh: Brave is fast becoming one of the world’s biggest MMA shows so it’s of course great to have them visit Ireland. However, I would have preferred Dublin because that’s my hometown.
Farah Hannoun: Frans Mlambo is headlining the event, with a record of 5-2, he’s practically grown up in the cage, how proud are to see him turn things around with 3 straight finishes since losing to Loman the first time?
John Kavanagh: He’s earned that title shot with exciting finishes both by submission and KO. He’s finding his way in the cage nicely now.
Farah Hannoun: What adjustments has Mlambo made since the first fight with Loman? What do you feel like went wrong the first-time round?
John Kavanagh: His grappling was too weak back then. He’s one of the best strikers I’ve ever seen and now his grappling is catching up. Frans is one of the top 135lb fighters in the world.
Farah Hannoun: Cian Cowley is set to make the walk for the second time in his pro career when he takes on Daniel Olejniczak, in light of the legal issues he’s had the misfortune of dealing with, how hard was it for him to put all that aside and focus on the fight?
John Kavanagh: Cian is very mature and focused. It’s not a problem for him to block out what’s going on outside.
Farah Hannoun: Also competing from SBG, is Tommy Martin who’s looking to bounce back when he takes on Aidan James, how’s he been looking at the gym and what can we expect from him?
John Kavanagh: Tommy is a technician. Clean striking, one of best doubles on my team and tidy on the ground. His opponent is similar, solid technician. This fight will be very interesting for those who like nice technique.
Farah Hannoun: You’ve played a massive role in the growth of Irish MMA, SBG and Conor McGregor. The impact that you and Conor have had has resulted in a lot of opportunities and a spotlight on the guys at the gym. Does the idea that people have the perception that the SBG guys get “special treatment” or extra opportunities bother you?
John Kavanagh: No, we’ve earned it 😉
Farah Hannoun: You must be really proud, bringing up a talent such as Frans from his IMMAF world champion days to now him getting a title shot at Brave CF, what are your thoughts on Frans as an individual and a fighter?
John Kavanagh: One of few 135lbs in the world with genuine 1 punch KO power. A very good singer and cook too!
Farah Hannoun: You wrote a mega successful book, Win or Learn, which is even a quote that people have been using a lot when competing in MMA. Your best-selling book was even translated to multiple languages and sold internationally which is incredible. Did you expect the book to be so successful when writing it and do you have plans on writing another one someday?
John Kavanagh: No, I thought maybe my mother would buy a few copies and that’d be it haha. I believe almost 50,000 sold worldwide and talk of a movie adaptation. It’s crazy. Maybe one more book when I’m retired.
After his impressive finish over Niko Price at UFC Sao Paulo, Vicente Luque eyeing Darren Till
When Luan Chagas was forced out of his fight versus Niko Price at UFC Sao Paulo, The UFC called Vicente Luque and he happily accepted.
He stepped in on short notice and took out one of the toughest surging welterweights in Niko Price.
He hurt Price with a counter right before locking in one of his favourite submissions, the D’arce choke. This marked Luque’s 5th win in 6 UFC outings making him one of the brightest young stars in the division.
“I wanted to go out there and have an impressive fight,” Luque said.
“I thought that was very important especially that I was coming off a 4 fight win streak then I had a loss so I wanted to keep that momentum. I think I did that and it definitely puts me back where I was before going after those top 15 guys.”
He now turns his attention to a fellow rising star, Darren Till. Till took out Cowboy Cerrone in the first round last month in Gdansk and Luque feels he would match up well with him.
“I would really like to fight Darren Till,” Luque said. “He’s a great striker and his last fight was really impressive against Cowboy. I’m a striker as well and I would love to test my striking and see who the best striker in the division is.”
And should the UFC decide to go a different direction, Luque would be content fighting anyone in the top 15. With 5 wins and 5 finishes in the division, he feels he’s earned a high ranked opponent or a big name.
“I want a top 15 opponent for sure but if they don’t give me that I’ll be looking for someone with a big name,” Luque said. “Guys like Alan Jouban who already have a name and everybody knows who they are. Those are the guys that I want to be fighting.”
Another name Luque is interested in is Colby Covington who fought on the same card as him. Covington took out former title challenger Demian Maia and proceeded to cut a heavy promo, blasting the Brazilian crowd.
Covington’s harsh and controversial comments towards Brazil didn’t sit well for Luque who sees multiple benefits of fighting him.
“I definitely think that was disrespectful not only to Brazilians but to anybody that watches MMA,” Luque said. “I don’t think that’s the posture of an athlete. I don’t take it personally but I would love to fight him no matter what whether he was disrespectful or not because he’s a top contender.”
The welterweight division is arguably the most talked about division. With rising stars such as Darren Till, Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington and Mike Perry, Luque feels like his name should be thrown in the mix too.
“I think I’m getting up there and slowly getting my spot. I’m having good fights and I know what I’m capable of and that’s what I’m trying to show. I’m doing my thing and I feel that my fights speak for themselves.”
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