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The Chinese strawweight contender, Xiaonan Yan, returns to action at UFC Vegas 27. She looks to extend her winning streak to seven fights and earn her shot at the title. In her way is the former strawweight champion Carla Esparza, who has a case for a title shot should she win as well.
As know before, Yan comes from the Xi’an Sports University in China. Getting a little more background on her, Yan says that she studied the sport of Sanda during her time there and made the switch later on.
“I practiced Sanda when I was in Xi’an Institute of Physical Education. I started to practice MMA professionally in 2015.”
Xiaonan Yan vs. Carla Esparza | UFC Vegas 27
Esparza is no joke. The former champion has wins over Nina Nunes, Felipe Herring, and Bec Rawlings. Then she hopped on The Ultimate Fighter and joined the UFC. Time hasn’t been easy for her since getting to the promotion but she won the inaugural title against Rose Namajunas. But recently, Esparza found her rhythm and put together four good wins over Virna Jandiroba, Alexa Grasso, Machelle Waterson, and Marina Rodriguez. The latter two fight this weekend at UFC Vegas 26.
But, Yan is riding 11 straight wins herself, not counting a no contest from accidental head collision in 2016. Yan’s UFC run has been nothing short of fantastic as well. She’s beat Kallin Curran, Viviane Pereira, Syuri Kondo, Angela Hill, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, and most recently Claudia Gadelha at UFC Vegas 13. Now she takes on her toughest challenge and her highest profile matchup. Regardless, Xiaonan Yan is ready to show off her skills and take on the tough task.
“I am very excited to play against strong players, and it is also a competition to test my strength.”
Her training has been nothing short of top level either. Yan has spent her entire camp split between the two UFC Performance Institutes in Shanghai and Las Vegas. She is getting quality training and she feels that this will be her best fight yet.
“When I was in China, I trained at the Shanghai UFC PI and my strength has been greatly improved. Now I am training at UFC PI in Las Vegas. Every day I train against opponents.”
Esparza has very good grappling. She has a knack of handling her opponents on the ground and taking the fight to her adversaries. But, Yan isn’t oblivious to that fact. Her camp has been tailored around this matchup to give her the best chance to walk out of the cage with a win.
“Many fans told me to pay attention to takedown defense. I have been training wrestling. I believe I can do well.”
Regardless of where the fight goes, Yan says she feels like her skills will do her well. “I think my style of play is more restrained, so I must do well,” she says.
Xiaonan Yan Gunning for the Title
Should Yan win, there is a very strong case for her to take on Rose Namajunas, who recently defeated Yan’s fellow countrymen in Weili Zhang to reclaim the belt at UFC 261. When asked if a win would put her first in line for a shot at claiming UFC gold for herself, Xiaonan Yan likes her chances.
“I think it can because a victory this time is 7 consecutive victories. I will definitely fight for the championship next fight.”
As for the matchup, there’s some hefty expectations for Yan in the hypothetical matchup with Namajunas. There are many that look up to her, her fellows in China specifically, that are hoping Yan comes away with the belt.
“The victory of the game must be played in the championship, because many Chinese boxing fans have placed their hopes of defeating Rose on me.”
She reiterates, with a win at UFC Vegas 27, Xiaonan Yan believes she is next in line to challenge the two time champion in Rose Namajunas.
“If I win this game, I will definitely fight Rose hoping to bring championship back to China. I have been waiting for this day for a long time, and I will try my best.”
Winning the championship is a lifelong goal of Yan’s. Actually capturing the belt will be the culmination of a lot of hard work and sacrifice she’s made her entire life.
“If I can win the championship, I will realize my great dream. This feeling must be great. I have practiced martial arts since I was a child so that I can win the championship. I have always insisted on my dream.”
Xiaonan Yan and Weili Zhang
As we briefly talked about earlier, Rose Namajunas defeated Weili Zhang, the first ever Chinese UFC champion. In suffering a first round knockout, Zhang saw her title taken from her in just her second defense. Yan says that with how quick the fight was, she isn’t so sure if the UFC will be keen on booking the immediate rematch which will pave the way for the title shot of her own.
“I didn’t expect the game to end soon, she lost the game. I don’t know if UFC will arrange a second battle, but I hope UFC will give me a chance to defeat Rose.”
If everything goes her way, Xiaonan Yan can win the UFC title. But that opens up a chance that Weili Zhang could be coming off of a rebound win and another shot at the title. After the Kowalkiewicz fight, Yan said that she’s open to fighting Zhang who was the reigning champion at that time.
“If we can compete for the golden belt, it proves that the MMA players in China are getting stronger and stronger. I hope that such a thing will happen.”Xiaonan Yan: China’s MMA Surge
Things have not changed and a fight with the former champion is everything good in Xiaonan Yan’s eyes. With restrictions lifting up every day from the COVID pandemic, Yan is thinking that it would be a perfect fight for the UFC to return to China.
“Of course I am willing. I hope we can play against each other. Sports know no borders. I also hope that the competition can be played in China.”
Xiaonan Yan is on the cusp of realizing her life long dreams of taking home a world championship. With a win over Carla Esparza at UFC Vegas 27, she will be one step closer to accomplishing just that.
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Don’t forget to check out our previous interviews with Xiaonan Yan below!
Xiaonan Yan: China’s MMA Surge
After a monster win at UFC Auckland, Xiaonan Yan is looking forward. In this exclusive interview, she recaps the fight, talks struggles with her camp dude to the coronavirus and more.
Xiaonan Yan: Brand New Version
Back in action for the first time since the pandemic, Yan Xiaonan is ready to show her improvements to the world at UFC Vegas 13.