Mohammed Yahya is not only confident of landing a victory on his historic debut in the UFC this weekend in Abu Dhabi, he is targeting a Fight of the Night bonus too.
The UAE athlete, 29, will enter the record books at UFC 294 on Saturday night when he becomes the first Emirati to compete in the world’s leading Mixed Martial Arts promotion.
Yahya, a UAE Warriors Arabian champion at lightweight, signed with the UFC only last month. On Saturday, he takes on American Trevor Peek at Etihad Arena.
With a professional record that reads 12-3, Yahya boasts more experience in the paid ranks than his opponent – Peek is 8-1, but has fought twice in the UFC already – and the Dubai-based fighter believes the two styles should make for a gripping encounter. The UFC awards $50,000 bonuses for standout bouts.
“I feel like it’s a great opponent for me to showcase my skills,” Yahya said during Wednesday’s official pre-event media day on Yas Island. “He’s tough, he comes forward. I love a person that comes forward. We could get ‘Fight of the Night’ with that.
“So I’m looking forward to it. I feel like I’m better than him in every aspect – and I’m coming.”
The son of an Emirati father and English mother, Yahya was born in Oxford, England, before moving to Dubai when he was one. He began Mixed Martial Arts aged 14 and eventually climbed to 22-0 as an amateur kickboxer.
Yahya, who competed as a pro in both Desert Force and Bellator, won seven of eight bouts in the Abu Dhabi-based UAE Warriors. Defending the lightweight Arabian belt three times, he currently rides a five-fight winning streak.
“I’m very proud to represent my country in the biggest league,” he said. “It’s always been a dream and I’m here now, so I’m ready to represent.
"I always thought I’d get the opportunity, and I feel the opportunity is up to God. All I did was stay ready. And, when it does come, I need to be 100 per cent ready, and that’s where I am now.”
Asked about competing in front of a heavy home support in Abu Dhabi, Yahya said: “For sure, the motivation is crazy. This has been our dream, not just for me, but my team and my brothers. We’re looking forward to putting on a good show and representing in the octagon.
“I like to perform, to put on a good show for everyone watching. I never like to have a boring fight."