Yan Xiaonan was the first female Chinese fighter to ever sign for the UFC. The 33 year old has been on the roster since 2017 and has a huge fight coming up this weekend.

She faces former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade at UFC 288. She might have been eclipsed by compatriot Weili Zhang but the Chinese veteran remains in the title mix and could establish herself as a serious contender with a win in New Jersey this weekend.

She told UFC Countdown that she was inspired to become a mixed martial artist by the first ever Chinese fighter to compete on a UFC card,

“When I was five years old I moved out of the country side, I moved to the city for school and was training Sanda in college. After I graduated in 2012 I began working (but) one day I was watching a Chinese TV channel and I saw the first-ever Chinese UFC fighter Zhang Tiequan.”


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Fearless fighter

He fought four times for the UFC after impressing with the now defunct WEC and helped spearhead the promotion’s early efforts to break into the Chinese market. Back then Tiequan was the only fighter on the roster representing the country but these days Xiaonan is part of a sizeable contingent.

Weili Zhang holds the promotion’s strawweight title, Yadong Song is coming off a big win, Jingliang Li has really made a name for himself while the likes of Maheshate and Shayilan Nuerdanbieke have all enjoyed recent success. But Xiaonan has stood the test of time and describes herself as ‘a fearless fighter’,

“I think I was made for this sport, since I’m a fearless fighter. Willing to throw punches, and I like to throw hard strikes. That’s why I think i’m capable of doing MMA. This is a sport for me.”


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Perfect match

Yan was one of the first Chinese fighters to relocate permanently to the US. She has been working under the watchful eye of another fighter who made a successful transition from the WEC to the UFC.

She is based at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento and has caught the eye of the camps founder Urjah Faber,

“Yan’s been coming in for about two year’s now. A good portion of her time is here in Sacramento  making huge improvements on all parts of the game. This girl puts in such hard work, it’s hard to find partners that can keep her intensity so we’re a perfect match for her.”

Yan is currently ranked #6 after her recent win over Mackenzie Dern. A win over Andrade would almost certainly see her crack the top five and start really breathing down the neck of Weili Zhang.

It isn’t clear whether the two Chinese strawweights would be willing to fight each other but it is a dilemma Yan would like to have. She dreams of winning the title and is potentially just one victory away from a fight for the belt.