Mohammed Yahya: It's finally UFC 294 fight week and I can't wait to showcase my skills

In an exclusive column, the first Emirati UFC fighter takes us through his final preparations ahead of fight night

Mohammed Yahya, first Emirati to fight in UFC, the world's leading MMA organisation. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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Last night was the final night of the weight cut, before the biggest fight of my career so far, and everything is going great. I’m more than on track, I’ve been training well throughout, and everything’s looking sweet.

“Sweet” is probably the wrong word, since the weight cut involves no salt or sugar for five days, where you’re eating clean and everything’s bland. During the first five days, you have a two-gallon intake of water also, so obviously you start to hate your life. But I’ve been here many times before in my career, as an amateur and professional, and never had an issue.

This time around, though, the UFC is there to help. They have a whole team that looks after you, giving you the food you need nutrition-wise, the supplements, even helping with the rehydration after today’s official weigh-in.

They know exactly where I need to be, giving me whatever’s needed to perform at my peak. I’m so excited to see how I feel on fight night with all this support.

I arrived on Yas Island on Tuesday morning and checked into the fighters’ hotel as a UFC athlete – a moment I have been dreaming of my entire life. It means fight week is officially here, and I get to showcase my skills on the sport’s biggest stage.

It won’t surprise, then, that the UFC is the most professional promotion I’ve ever been in. It really is the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Everything runs so smoothly and so fast, and you know what it is to be a top athlete. You’re in such good hands, and it feels they do everything in their power to help you be at your best come the opening bell. It’s been smooth sailing. I’m really looking forward to the future with them.

A major part of the week has been trying on the official UFC clothing for the first time. I’m lucky they dropped their new collection after a few years; Venom has always been my favourite brand in fight sports. Just trying on my gloves and the clothes, getting my pictures taken with them, has been cool. I’m excited to wear it in the octagon.

However, I just took it as a normal day, viewing it as part of my job this week. I’m staying calm and concentrated on the fight. I'm not showing any emotion because I’m 100 per cent focused on defeating Trevor Peek – I can soak everything in once I get my hand raised.

Even Khamzat Chimaev, a teammate through my Dubai training camp who’s fighting in the co-main on Saturday, has noticed. We bumped into him at the pool, where we got some vitamin D and played a bit of football. Every fighter’s bored right now in the hotel because they’re all just waiting for Friday's weigh-in and then the fun part to start.

At the pool, Khamzat joked with me to smile and be happy, asking me, “Why you look so angry, brother?” He was like, “It’s your first time in the UFC; be happy and enjoy the moment.” I know what he means. I’m just super focused.

But I am excited to experience what it’s going to feel like to fight in front of 18,000 people at Etihad Arena, representing my homeland in front of my people. Of course, it's going to pump you up and make you go at it. It’s going to give you that energy.

If one thing, as the fight gets closer and closer, I’m getting more angry thinking that my opponent is coming to my land, that he wants to beat me in front of my people and take away everything I worked for. But I’m not going to let that happen. I'm getting ready to rip his head off, and I know I’m going to finish him.

Mohammed Yahya to make history as first Emirati to fight in UFC

Mohammed Yahya to make history as first Emirati to fight in UFC

Only one more sleep. Honestly, the best sleeps I have in my life are the nights before the fight; I don’t know how, but I always do.

Normally, when I’m in training camp and training hard, I can’t sleep, but when I’m getting ready for a fight, I do a breathing exercise and end up having the best sleep.

On fight day, I’ll wake up at 6am, have the biggest breakfast ever, then go back to sleep and just wake up naturally. From there I’ll have a shower, pray, then head to the arena.

My routine is typically that two hours before the fight I’ll have a coffee - I haven’t had coffee in like 10 days now - so it will absorb and give me the focus and get my mind switched on. I have a job to do, for myself, my team, my family and my country. And I can’t wait.

Updated: October 20, 2023, 3:50 AM