Yan, 27, faces Brazilian legend Jose Aldo in a bantamweight title fight in Abu Dhabi this weekend, hoping to join countryman and 155lbs king Khabib Nurmagomedov as the second Russian champion now in the UFC ranks.
Siberian native Yan heads into the bout on the back of six wins from six since making his octagon debut around two years ago, and is largely tipped as the favorite against the 33-year-old Aldo – a former long-time featherweight champion, but who has lost two on the spin heading into this weekend’s showdown.
Yan said earlier this week that it would be “huge” for Russian if he joins Dagestani grappling phenom Khabib as a UFC champion hailing from the country – and UFC boss Dana White has also said having the backing of entire nations carries a certain added importance.
“Well I mean this is a global sport, whenever we get a guy with a whole country behind them, it’s always a good thing, whether it’s Russia, Brazil or anyone,” White said in response to a question on Yan from RT Sport.
Yan and Aldo are part of three title bouts on Fight Island, as the welterweight showdown between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal headlines proceedings and a co-main featherweight title fight rematch between champion Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway.
Each fighter competing in a title bout made weight on Friday, but will be subjected to further final Covid-19 protocols before the bouts are official on Sunday morning local time and Saturday night in the US.