Poetically, the shared fight date will mark the beginning for one fighter and a potential end for the other. Yanez (11-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) will make his promotional debut against Victor Rodriguez on the prelims before the legendary Silva makes perhaps his final walk to the octagon in the main event.
“To me, the biggest cherry on top is that I’m fighting on Anderson Silva’s retirement card,” Yanez recently told MMA Junkie. “To me, it makes my (UFC debut) much more exciting.”
Yanez grew up watching Silva and admired the former UFC middleweight champion’s lengthy title reign, knockout prowess and public demeanor. Being a fan of “The Spider” was easy, recalled Yanez.
“I don’t see how people couldn’t look up to him. He’s soft spoken, and any time he would step into the cage it was something special,” Yanez said. “Man, that front-kick knockout of Vitor Belfort will forever be embedded in everybody’s head. He was the first fighter to be doing those types of crazy things and making it look super easy. It’s one of those things. If you weren’t looking up to Anderson Silva as a fighter, I don’t think you were a fight fan.”
If he’d met Silva during UFC on ESPN+ 39 fight week, Yanez would likely fanboy out. It would be a struggle not to when he’s in the presence of one of his idols.
“I think I might shed a tear because that’s a guy who I idolized for a long time,” Yanez said. “I’ll tell you right now: I would probably not be able to speak if I were to run into Cain Velasquez or Anderson Silva, maybe even Frankie Edgar or Jose Aldo. Those guys, man. I respect those guys so much and what they’ve done for the sport. I wouldn’t be able to speak. At the end of the day, I’m still a fan.”
Regardless of his sentimental side, Yanez wants to make a statement in his UFC debut. On Dana White’s Contender Series in August, Yanez flattened Brady Huang in 39 seconds to earn a UFC contract. On Saturday, Yanez predicts fans can see something similar when he fights fellow newcomer Rodriguez (7-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) in a bantamweight fight.
“(My last fight) was just (for) to get a contract and into the UFC,” Yanez said. “Man, now that I’ve got the chance to get $50,000? Of course, yeah. You’re going to see me gunning for that $50,000. Not for a contract, for $50,000. I’m going to be throwing a little bit more heaters his way, man. Hopefully they all can connect.”
UFC on ESPN+ 39 takes place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas and streams on ESPN+.