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7 Feb, 2020 15:25

'Jellyfish stung me all over, but I still fought': Rising UFC star Petr Yan opens up on career & life outside the octagon (VIDEO)

Russian UFC bantamweight star Petr Yan made his octagon debut just a year and a half ago, but has already made a name for himself with his relentless fighting style and impressive six-fight winning streak.

As Yan takes a short break from the octagon following his knockout victory over UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber in December, RT Sport caught up with the self-styled "Siberian Gangster" at the UFC’s Moscow office to talk about his MMA career as well as his family, motivations and life before sport.

RT: Fighters don’t like to talk about their injuries because some people might say they’re looking for excuses, but can you tell us if there were any UFC bouts when you had to fight with an injury?

PY: All of them, except for the last one. In the last one luckily for me I was completely healthy. I had no injuries. But in all five fights before that I had injuries.

Was it your character which helped you to get thorough?

Yes, my character. I was ready mentally. My fighting spirit told me that I could beat my opponents. Even if I walk into the cage with a broken leg, I know that the only way to stop me is to knock me out. If not - I won’t give up. I knew that I could beat them.

In my fist UFC fight I had a broken toe. I broke and dislocated it 2 weeks before the fight. When you can’t even step on it. But in the fight I forgot about the pain, I didn’t feel it at all. I just knew that I couldn’t kick with this leg.

There were other things, infections and so on in the second, third and fourth fights. Before my fifth fight (against Jimmie Rivera) I got stung by venomous jellyfish in Thailand. On the day I had to take a flight to the States my temperature was almost 40 (degrees Celsius). It was high season for jellyfish (in Thailand), and I went for a one-hour swim. My friend was following me on a paddle board just in case.

I completed a one-hour swim, and when I was far away from the shore they attacked me. I climbed up on the board. As I said, it was high season for jellyfish, a lot of people ended up in hospital. But I had a flight back home the next day. I woke up and my temperature was 40 (104 Fahrenheit).

At first I didn’t understand what was going on. But I remember that they stung me, because it started burning and itching. The next day I had the same temperature, but I got an early flight, I spent a full day on planes to get to the States, all those 12-hour flights. When I got there the whole week I was completely worn out, dead. Plus I had to cut weight. To be honest I didn’t even want to fight. I had no desire, but I knew I had to take care of business.

That whole week I was completely exhausted. Like a squeezed lemon. My immune system was really down. In the last fight everything was fine. But that’s about being a professional. I was watching a lot of videos about (Vasyl) Lomachenko and (Oleksandr) Usyk. Before their big fights they do distance swims for like six or seven kilometers in the English Channel or something. They were swimming and had people on a boat following them. I thought I should test myself too.

They also hold their breath underwater.

Yeah, it’s a powerful thing. All the breathing techniques. I’ve seen how the national (boxing) team guys did it. They filled up bowls with water before they went to breakfast or lunch and they dipped in them. That’s how they practiced it. It’s a powerful thing, all those breathing techniques.

What motivates you to fight even when you’re ill? Because not everyone wants to fight, let alone when they’re sick.

Yeah, of course. When you aren’t hungry, when you have everything, you won’t do it. But when you have dreams, desire – you do it. I do it because I’ve got it (hunger). I have people I want to help, my relatives. After each fight I can help someone, whether it’s with housing  or something else. And that motivates me a lot.

You come from a big family. You have three brothers and four sisters.

Yes it’s big, but everyone’s grown-up now. But I have to say that if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it, that’s the first thing. Second is the opportunity to help my relatives. And the third thing for me – I understand where I am right now, I help myself too. I understand that I won’t be in sport forever, probably around 4 or 5 more years, and then I won’t be relevant anymore. So while I’m here, I have to do my best so that I have some opportunities after my career.  

Did the fact that you grew up in a big family affect you as a person? Did you have to share clothes with your brothers, for example?

Yeah, of course there were moments like that in my life, even though it was a long time ago. But yeah, I had to wear my elder brother’s clothes or share some other things. Or taking care of the younger ones, because the older ones took care of me at first because our mother had to work a lot. So it makes you grow up much quicker, plus you know the real price of all things. For me it was the school of life. And I’m glad it went the way it went, because I don’t know how would I handle myself now when I get decent money for fights. I don’t even know how would I spend it. I think it was all planned back then.

If not in sport, where do you think you’d be now?

It’s hard to even think about it. If I wasn’t in sport? There were different times before, different moments when I was already in sport. I got caught up in various trouble. It’s hard to even think about it. To be honest I don’t even want to think about it, because all your thoughts can materialize and you can attract all the things you think about. Now we’re going forward, we’re going for the belt.

Also on rt.com 'I like him as a fighter': Petr Yan says he'd love to face TJ Dillashaw when former UFC champ returns from drugs ban (VIDEO)