The bantamweight matchup takes place this Saturday at the Moody Center in the Lone Star State. Following the announcement of the bout, Kelley caused quite a stir on social media due to comments made while cornering Andrea Lee at UFC Vegas 54.
Between rounds, Kelley said of Lee’s opponent Viviane Araujo: “That’s what they’re gonna do. They’re dirty f******* Brazilians. They’re going to f***ing cheat like that.”
From there, welterweight Gilbert Burns — along with a slew of Brazilian MMA fans — showed public support for Yanez heading into Saturday’s fight card. For Yanez, a new father, he was a little stunned by the extra fans standing behind him.
“I didn’t actually post for a couple of weeks, and the same week the fight was made, Andrea was fighting that Saturday,” Yanez told MMA Fighting on Heck of a Morning. “From there, my stuff started blowing up with a whole bunch of Brazilian flags, a bunch of DM’s from Brazilian fans showing their support for me. It’s cool that a lot more people want to watch me do what I already wanted to do to the guy, and that’s knock him out.
“It sucks for him on his end, but it is what it is. In the heat of the moment, that guy just went to that pretty quickly. In some capacity, I understand because he’s watching his significant other go in there and fight somebody else. That, itself, brings a lot of emotions with it. I’m just happy that I get to go in there and knock him out, get double the fans to watch me because I was going to knock him out anyways.”
Yanez has won eight straight — including a 4-0 start to his UFC run with finishes of Victor Rodriguez, Gustavo Lopez, and Randy Costa, as well as a hard fought decision win over Davey Grant in his most recent outing.
Although Yanez was as puzzled by Kelley’s corner comments as the vast majority of the MMA community, it didn’t add any extra chips on his shoulder — a lesson he learned nearly four years ago.
“It never changed my motivation for a fight, it didn’t change anything,” Yanez said. “I already wanted to go in there and knock him out. I already wanted to go in there and fight him. He had already called me out. You said my name, I’m going to go in there and beat you up. To me, it was just nice to have another big support system, that was cool for me, but it never crossed my mind for it to be more motivation.
“At the end of the day, I’m fighting for myself [and my family] and that’s been the biggest thing in my career. Before I got into the UFC, I was always fighting for somebody else, and after my last loss to Miles Johns, [I realized that] I have to do this for myself, and next thing you know everything took off, everything’s been amazing.
“It didn’t give me extra motivation, but it’s probably going to be more satisfying when I knock him out, and I’ll say, ‘For the Brazilian fans, this is for you, dawgs.’”
Kelley will look to make it three straight wins inside the octagon in his biggest test to date, and is also coming in with a finish over Costa — which he did in his most recent appearance at UFC 269 in December.
For the 28-year-old Texan, he knows he has his hands full with Kelley, but plans to make it a very short night in his first bout as a dad.
“Honestly, it’s going to be a barnburner, but it’s going to end with a KO,” Yanez said. “Whatever he said is what he said, but I do not diminish his skills in any type of a way. He’s a come forward type of guy, and he’s a fighter. He’s a brawler. He’s really good at what he does, but I know I’m better, I’m a lot more tactical, and I know I can hit a lot harder. If he can take the shot, it’s the Fight of the Night. If he can’t, he’s going out in the second round.”