Petr Yan is upholding Russia’s reputation as the home for some of the toughest and most talented MMA fighters. The number three ranked bantamweight made his Octagon debut less than two years ago and has bulldozed his way through six opponents including John Dodson and Urijah Faber.
The self proclaimed “Siberian Gangster” has proved his resilience outside of the Octagon. During an interview with RT news, the fighter opened up about his experiences outside of fighting that have shaped who he is to the this day:
Was it your character which helped you to get thorough?
“Yes, my character. I was ready mentally. My fighting spirit told me that I could beat my opponents.
“In my fist UFC fight I had a broken toe. I broke and dislocated it 2 weeks before the fight. When you can’t even step on it. But in the fight I forgot about the pain, I didn’t feel it at all. I just knew that I couldn’t kick with this leg.
“There were other things, infections and so on in the second, third and fourth fights. Before my fifth fight [against Jimmie Rivera] I got stung by venomous jellyfish in Thailand. On the day I had to take a flight to the States my temperature was almost 40 [degrees Celsius]. It was high season for jellyfish [in Thailand], and I went for a one-hour swim. My friend was following me on a paddle board just in case.
“I completed a one-hour swim, and when I was far away from the shore they attacked me. I climbed up on the board. As I said, it was high season for jellyfish, a lot of people ended up in hospital. But I had a flight back home the next day. I woke up and my temperature was 40 [104 Fahrenheit].
“At first I didn’t understand what was going on. But I remember that they stung me, because it started burning and itching. The next day I had the same temperature, but I got an early flight, I spent a full day on planes to get to the States, all those 12-hour flights. When I got there the whole week I was completely worn out, dead. Plus I had to cut weight. To be honest I didn’t even want to fight. I had no desire, but I knew I had to take care of business.
“That whole week I was completely exhausted. Like a squeezed lemon. My immune system was really down. In the last fight everything was fine. But that’s about being a professional. I was watching a lot of videos about [Vasyl] Lomachenko and [Oleksandr] Usyk. Before their big fights they do distance swims for like six or seven kilometers in the English Channel or something. They were swimming and had people on a boat following them. I thought I should test myself too.”
What motivates you to fight even when you’re ill? Because not everyone wants to fight, let alone when they’re sick.
“Yeah, of course. When you aren’t hungry, when you have everything, you won’t do it. But when you have dreams, desire – you do it. I do it because I’ve got it [hunger]. I have people I want to help, my relatives. After each fight I can help someone, whether it’s with housing or something else. And that motivates me a lot.”
You come from a big family. You have three brothers and four sisters.
“Yes it’s big, but everyone’s grown-up now. But I have to say that if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it, that’s the first thing. Second is the opportunity to help my relatives. And the third thing for me – I understand where I am right now, I help myself too. I understand that I won’t be in sport forever, probably around 4 or 5 more years, and then I won’t be relevant anymore. So while I’m here, I have to do my best so that I have some opportunities after my career.”
If not in sport, where do you think you’d be now?
“It’s hard to even think about it. If I wasn’t in sport? There were different times before, different moments when I was already in sport. I got caught up in various trouble. It’s hard to even think about it. To be honest I don’t even want to think about it, because all your thoughts can materialize and you can attract all the things you think about. Now we’re going forward, we’re going for the belt.”
As Petr Yan inches closer towards the belt, number two ranked bantamweight Aljamain Sterling has called him out on Twitter for a fight. Would you like to see the 135-pound fighters go head to head next? Sound off in the comments below.