Petr Yan was in Phuket when the coronavirus, or Covid-19, pandemic struck. He has been there ever since, only leaving Thailand to fly to Abu Dhabi for UFC 251 earlier this week.

He is scheduled to face former featherweight champion Jose Aldo for the vacant bantamweight championship at Yas Island. His wife recently gave birth to a boy in Phuket but he was forced to leave his family behind in order to go and challenge for the belt.

With Yan unable to return to Thailand they will eventually be reunited in Russia. Yan hopes to have a new belt slung over his shoulder by then,

“I envision this fight will end with my hand being raised. I will knock out Aldo, and then I shake his hand after the fight,” he declared.

Hot streak

Phuket might have helped Yan launch his UFC career. But his martial arts journey began in a very different environment back in his native Russia,

“Siberia is quite a cold and harsh place where people just survive rather than actually live. From early childhood you are on your own (but) I did a lot of sports like taekwondo, boxing and football. Boxing attracted me the most, my martial arts base is striking, that’s why I like to finish opponents,” he said.

Yan has won six UFC fights in a row. His title credentials are impeccable but the identity of his opponent might surprise some people. Aldo is a former featherweight champion but has never won a fight at 135lbs and is coming off back to back defeats.

The Russian already had an inkling that he was going to be matched with the former featherweight champion,

“Honestly, I wasn’t surprised that I would be facing Aldo because he was supposed to fight for the title a few months ago. I don’t have the final word as to whom I should face in that cage. The UFC calls the shot,” he said.

Great fighter

The other contender is Marlon Moraes, who scored a split decision win over Aldo last year. But Yan says he doesn’t mind who he is matched with as long as the belt is on the line,

“I believe it’s either him or Moraes who should get the chance at the belt. But I’m one of the two guys fighting for the vacant bantamweight title. So I don’t mind who’s my opponent. I want it, and I’m taking advantage of this opportunity,” Yan added.

Yan is well acquainted with Aldo. He traveled to Rio de Janeiro to prepare for his rematch with Magomed Magomedov at ACB 57: Payback in April 2017 and sparred with the Brazilian at Nova Uniao,

“I’ve never seen any athlete like Aldo who has powerful knee strikes and leg kicks. He is such a great fighter,” he recalled.

Good match

Having already gone toe to toe with Aldo, albeit in a controlled environment, Yan says that their respective styles should make for a good match,

“Aldo is a very experienced fighter. He doesn’t make many mistakes. He will be ready to go the full distance with me. But I believe I have the ability to defeat him. I have no doubt it will be an exciting fight because of our styles,” he stated.

Yan made his debut as an amateur in 2014. He was the reigning ACB bantamweight champion when he signed with the UFC and holds a pro record of 14-1.

The 27 year old has not exactly been an overnight success. But throughout his career he has had one goal and Yan is determined to realize it on Sunday,

“The UFC belt has always been the number one goal. I’m here now to prove to everyone that I deserve the belt, I’m worthy of it.”