Up close and physical: Mohammad Yahya's training regime

'The National' gets an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the UAE's first mixed martial arts champion

Born in Dubai, Mohammad Yahya is the first Emirati to claim a title in professional mixed martial arts, courtesy of his second-round stoppage of Yazid Choufane at UFC Warriors Arabia 4 in September.

Contesting the promotion’s lightweight belt at the Jiu-Jutsu Arena in Abu Dhabi, Yahya downed Choufane with a right hand and then unleashed a flurry of punches on his Algerian opponent as he lay prone on the canvas.

When the referee stopped the bout moments before the bell sounded, Yahya had created history.

Mohammad Yahya training at Champs Sports Club, Dubai.

“I feel on top of the world,” a jubilant Yahya said immediately afterwards. “I have many people to thank as I celebrate this moment. Firstly, the UAE Warriors for providing me with this opportunity, my coaches, family and my fans.

“It has been a long and hard journey, but I have loved every moment of it. This is a moment I have been waiting for so long and this success is not only for me but my country and its people.”

'When I'm in training camp I train twice a day.'

It was a headline moment in his headline bout. By participating in the top-of-the-bill clash, Yahya had already put his name in the history books as the first Emirati to compete for a pro MMA title.

Then he went one step further.

'I train four to six hours, day and night.'

It represents the crowning glory to date in a career that began when he took up the sport aged 14. Yahya made his pro debut in March 2014, at Desert Force-11, and would triumph in five of his first six fights.

In his Bellator bow in Newcastle, England, in December 2017, Yahya grabbed the spotlight by knocking out England’s Ashley Griffiths in the first round. But in his next bout, almost a year and a half later, he lost to another Englishman, Gavin Hughes, at Bellator Birmingham.

Mohammad Yahya training with a punch bag at TK Fitness in Dubai.

Switching to UAE Warriors, the burgeoning Emirates-based promotion, in late 2019, Yahya jumped to a 4-1 record before his watershed win six months ago.

This weekend, the former kickboxer features prominently on the UAE Warriors’ most significant run to this point: Yahya defends his title for the first time, in the third event of a triple-header at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.

Mohammad Yahya training with pads.

It is there, against Morocco’s Mohamed El Jaghdal at UAE Warriors Arabia 7 on Sunday night, that he hopes to lift his pro record to 11-3 and deliver another highlight on the UAE’s MMA scene.

“I’m ready, and it’s going to be my best performance,” Yahya said. “I have been in the training camp since winning my last bout and the title, and this is going to be another big night for me – as it was when I was fighting for the title.”

Updated: March 25, 2022, 7:14 PM