Petr Yan is not known as the easiest interlocutor and at times resembles the athlete Ivan Ukhov, who at one time closed himself off from journalists and answered questions at mandatory events and in mixed zones in monosyllables, and sometimes with a challenge. It is all the more surprising that the former UFC bantamweight champion held an open training session in Moscow at the end of last week and talked in an informal setting with everyone, despite a series of three defeats. The PARI ambassador was extremely frank in a personal conversation, which, of course, we began with a question about his readiness to return to the ring.
"How's your health?"
"I'm in good health," I'm slowly healing old injuries. As for the form, I have recently started training, gradually strengthening the body. The approximate date of return to the octagon is March 2024. I'll be ready by then.
"There are different ways to get back on the winning track. Which option will be preferable for you in the next fight: to win quickly and brightly or to spend the entire distance and take the upper hand by decision, but feel confident in your abilities?
– I think I need a competitive tight fight that will last at least a couple of rounds. I want to feel all the excitement of mixed martial arts again: to fight in the referee's position, to work in the standing position. Otherwise, a quick finish will leave some understatement.
You differ from many of your colleagues in that you never stop and go to the opponent to the end. How quickly do you feel that you have managed to "get under the skin" of your opponent and instill fear in him?
"It's very rare. Extremely experienced fighters perform at such a high level. In the same way, they prepare for you and analyze your strengths and weaknesses. You can feel this after an accurate hit or serious damage inflicted on the enemy - then you even visually feel how the opponent is shocked. But you shouldn't focus on this. If you constantly think about how dumbfounded he is, you risk making a mistake yourself.
"Some fighters are cunning, for example, they pretend that they are tired or that they have been led.
"These kinds of tricks can be radically different from each other. If you're pretending to be shocked, but you're actually preparing to retaliate, that's okay. Such traps do exist, and this is a certain tactical move. It is quite another thing when a person passes into the liver area and signals the referee about a blow to the groin. By simulating, the athlete tries to get the fight declared invalid. I find it unacceptable to try to cheat or circumvent the system. I have my own philosophy. Let it just be the way it is. I don't see the point in trying to stop the fight by shouting "Ah, it hurts so much!"
Judging by the interview, it seems that you don't care who you go to the octagon against, the main thing is to avoid a passing confrontation.
– The opponent should be interesting from the point of view of the organization of the fight and its spectacle. An important nuance: if the promotion wants to organize a fight, it will organize it. I really don't see much difference with whom to share the octagon, but I want to see an opponent with a high position in the rating in front of me. There is a top range where I am. Therefore, I don't have a good reason to fight with the conditional number 15 of the weight category. For what?
Which of the four would Sean O'Malley, Aljamain Sterling, Merab Dvalishvili and Henry Cejudo want to face first if you had a choice?
"Alas, the UFC won't give me any of that quartet right now. I am aware of this. Sean, I suppose, will be saved a little. Aljamain doesn't need such a fight now. It is necessary to start from who will be available on the dates on which my return is planned. There is a dialogue between managers, and I don't delve into it. I can't help but fight because I want to be the best. When they give me an opponent, I'll just say: "Let's go."
"Often, fighting any of the proposed opponents is the fate of young prospects. You are in a different status that allows you to dictate your own terms, but you are still ready for any scenario. Why?
"If I choose an opponent, people will start talking about how I was looking for a stylistically convenient one. I don't even want to guess. I'll just wait for the UFC's decision.
How many wins do you think separate you from another title fight?
"At least two. Then I guess I'll get a chance again. Let's take the O'Malley fight: 28 out of 30 independent judges and experts thought I was stronger. And I'm sure I won that fight. The judge's verdict in the rematch with Sterling also raises questions. I will say this: in the future, I am interested in all four of the above-mentioned candidates. These confrontations ignite me.
– In the summer, at the PARI Premier Cup in St. Petersburg, you said that you did not see the point in analyzing the fight with Merab Dvalishvili. Has your opinion changed since then?
"Then I understood: I would not be given a rematch with the Georgian in a short time. But time has passed, the analysis has been carried out, and I am interested in meeting him again.
Sergey Pavlovich missed his chance to fight Jon Jones, losing to Tom Aspinall. Did you expect the fight to end so quickly?
"There were fears. Aspinall is a very tough and fast opponent who took full advantage of his strengths. The Briton is an elite athlete. Potentially, he could even heap on Jones. Tom is a modern all-rounder: fast, precise, technical, with good skills in the referee's position. However, Sergey has the opportunity to return the favor to the Briton. He will work on the errors. The factor of the weight category should also be taken into account: in heavyweights, each blow can really decide the fate of the confrontation. Moreover, Sergey got Tom several times at the beginning of the round.
In your category, it's more difficult to get knocked out so early, so you need to be in perfect condition almost always. How do you work on endurance?
"There is only one recipe for a good functional condition – plowing. You have to live by it. MMA is a cruel world. If you stop working, people will start stepping on your heels.
"But there are exceptions. The same Jones allowed himself liberties and even received a ban on visiting the Jackson Wink MMA gym, where he trained.
"He worked on himself for a long time in the earlier stages of his career. It is on this foundation that the American leaves. He is gifted by nature and intellectually developed as a fighter. Professionals in their field are attracted to the camp - this helps to pass training at a high level.
Will there be any changes in your training before returning to the octagon?
— Absolutely. There are many aspects that need to be freshened.
"Changes will take place in absolutely all respects. There is a lot of work to do. To begin with, you should decide on the location of the gathering - the search for a location has already begun.
How do you rebuild the course of the match when you understand that your preparations do not work, and the coach's advice does not work?
— Yes, it happens sometimes. Where technology doesn't work, character kicks in. You can take certain risks.
"In that case, how can you not get involved in an uncompromising cabin?"
"Fighters who are at a high level must be able to analyze the situation and assess what is happening.
"But even elite athletes often go off the plan and put on a show. Just look at the battle between Dustin Poirier and Max Holloway. Has there ever been a time in your career when emotions were overwhelming?
– First fight against Magomed Magomedov. A real battle in which I really wanted to prove myself.
— By the way, how often do you disagree with the advice of your corner during a break?
— I always try to listen to him (laughs). There are athletes who are unable to accept the advice of coaches in emotional chaos, but from a professional point of view, it is necessary to be able to do this.
— How is this skill trained?
"Like any other. Some people type a lot to learn how to do it quickly, while others constantly try to pay attention to the tips of team members. The foundation is laid in the classroom: if you hear the mentor there, you will hear it during the fight.
- Did you deliberately never go against the opinion of your own corner during the fight?
"Clues are clues, but sometimes you really get a better feel for what's going on in the octagon. It is important to maintain a balance: to try your own developments, but also to pay attention to the shouts from the corner. A lot depends on the level of fighting intelligence. But these are the particulars, for the most part, you have to follow the recommendations of the corners, if you trust them.