Yahya: Mendes Won’t Neutralize My BJJ

By Marcelo Alonso Aug 2, 2011
Consecutive losses to Joseph Benavidez and Takeya Mizugaki in the WEC’s bantamweight division left Rani Yahya’s future at 135 pounds cloudy at best. A return to featherweight resulted, followed by a decision victory over former 145-pound champion Mike Thomas Brown in his UFC debut in January.

Yahya (Pictured, file photo) turned the tide in a hurry.

The win over the respected Brown opened doors for the 26-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, who meets the undefeated Chad Mendes at UFC 133 “Evans vs. Ortiz 2” on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Though a victory there could conceivably move him into title contention, Yahya remains focused on Mendes and what he considers the most important fight in his career.

“I try not to think about what will happen after my fights,” Yahya told Sherdog.com. “My goal is to win the fights, regardless of what happens. I’ve been working exclusively for that bout against Mendes. I always believe my next opponent will be the toughest, but this one, in particular, will be [the toughest].”

A two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion and onetime Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist, Yahya has three “Submission of the Night” bonuses to his credit, all of them earned under the WEC banner. For the fight against Mendes, he will again lean heavily on his considerable jiu-jitsu skills.

Mendes trains at Team Alpha Male with Brazilian Fabio “Pateta” Prado, a second-degree black belt under Gracie Ilha. Prado was in Benavidez’s corner when he defeated Yahya by first-round TKO in 2009 and has been watching his countryman’s game for some time. Yahya sounds undeterred.

“No way [Mendes] will neutralize my BJJ,” he said. “It’s really difficult to compare any fighter after such a long time, especially because these are different opponents, different weight divisions and different times. I’ve worked a lot on my wrestling skills, and in the same way he has a Brazilian teaching him BJJ, I have American wrestlers on my side. Jiu-jitsu put me in the UFC, and it is in jiu-jitsu that I place my trust.”

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