Yan Xiaonan, China’s first female fighter in the UFC, will make her second Octagon entrance at UFC Fight Night 132 in Singapore. For Yan, this chance validates her entire life’s work.
Yan Xiaonan was racing her whole career to get to this point. She’s from the younger generation of Chinese MMA, those who grew up training with the OGs, and at the same time knowing that there’s a completely different level outside of China. And she aimed for it.
Yan (8-1-0-1, China Top Team) faces Viviane Pereira (13-1, Dragon Combat) at strawweight on the prelims. This will be her toughest fight to date. Pereira has already claimed titles in Brazil, and is now 2-1 in the UFC. It will be a striking war which suits Yan just fine. She says,
“I don’t care. I know I can hit hard.”
Yan attended the Xi’An Sports University where she received her Bachelor’s Degree and practiced sanda with one of China’s most outstanding teams. Under Coach Zhao Xuejun, she was initiated into the MMA program and took to it immediately. Her firey personality and brute determination made it a natural fit. Yan always saw herself as a person who would be able to climb her way to the top of anything.
Last night, Yan was enjoying her final dinner before the fight, surrounded by teammates and family. Her father was beside her, and those moments showed a more tender and humble Yan than I’ve ever seen before. Perhaps her father is her grounding figure. This will be his second time to watch his daughter fight in the UFC. Yan was quiet, but smiling and laughing throughout the evening.
“I’m very excited,” was about all she would say.
Yan has become known for her aggression and power. She doesn’t care who is across from her. She will always come out with the mindset to engage. Much like the tennis great Serena Williams, Yan lobs shouts at her opponents with each punch. It’s rather intimidating to watch.
One thing that most fans haven’t seen is whatever, if any, skills she has on the ground; she ends fights with strikes too quickly. However, it was different in her UFC debut. Yan was able to negate many of Kailin Curran’s shoots and keep the fight in her realm, but going forward grappling will be much more important.
Her BJJ coach, CTT’s Ruy Menezes, is candid about her level of jiujitsu. Yan is a white belt. Yet she’s not clueless; she’s been wrestling and training MMA exclusively since 2015, and her move to China Top Team last year was an opportunity to drastically improve on the ground. Menezes said he’s been schooling her intensively for three straight months in grappling leading up to this fight, and she’s put in the work. He’s proud and confident. When asked, Coach Ruy even said he thinks she could win by submission!
But for now, Yan is relaxing, enjoying camaraderie, and perhaps visualizing what she will execute in the cage. Over a pot of boiling mutton and chili, she did come out with a little bit of that spicy and confrontational Yan that is familiar to those around her. I asked why she came to Singapore but ate Beijing food. Yan replied,
“Because I think Chinese food is the best! I have a Chinese stomach!”
And she laughed again with a sparkle in her eye.
Whether or not Yan’s recent focus on grappling will come into play at UFC Singapore, she can be expected to drop an explosive payload. Her sole focus in life is the UFC. She will do everything she can to destroy her opponents and stay there. She says,
“I want to finish the fight as early as possible. I will stay calm, and I will be prepared for whatever happens. I will be a warrior!”
UFC Fight Night 132 in Singapore starts today at 16:30 local time. For information on the entire card and for how to watch, visit the UFC’s event page.