Yan Xiaonan wants Rose Namajunas after first UFC main event win: ‘Everybody recognizes she’s probably the best fighter in our division’


Yan Xiaonan was well aware of the significance of UFC Vegas 61.

Not only did Xiaonan’s fight against Mackenzie Dern on Saturday serve as her first UFC main event, but it was also a pivotal crossroads for her career — the Chinese contender entered the contest reeling from back-to-back losses for her first time ever.

Fortunately for Xiaonan, the hours she spent on the mats at Sacramento’s Team Alpha Male gym paid off, as she fended off a blitzkrieg of attacks from one of the best jiu-jitsu artists in the sport and survived scary sequences in the second and fifth rounds to eke out a majority decision over Dern and reestablish herself as a threat in the 115-pound division.

” The Mackenzie fight is very important because I did not want to lose the third [in a row] in my career, so there was extra pressure before the fight,” Xiaonan stated through a translator on Monday at The MMA Hour .

“During the fifth round, I could feel that I won the first four rounds. So in the fifth round, even [when] I was in the bottom position, I was struggling with her, but my mindset was, ‘No matter, no tap. If I survive the fifth round I will win. No problem, even if my arm was broken. I just need to survive through the fifth round.’

“I just told [Dern afterward] that her jiu-jitsu is absolutely another level,” Xiaonan continued. “There were several moments I could feel the threat during the fight. And I just told her that we are all from the same management team, so we can train together in the future, so if she needs me to help her on striking or her helping myself on grappling, yeah, we can just train together.”

Heading into the bout, Xiaonan was MMA Fighting’s No. 7 ranked strawweight in the world, while Dern sat one spot above at No. 6. Xiaonan’s win places her back in elite company. With the UFC’s two champions — Carla Esparza (No. 2) and Marina Rodriguez (No. 1), Xiaonan is currently in a title defense against Zhang Weili. 1 contender fight against Amanda Lemos, respectively, Xiaonan already has her sights set on a different name for her next move, one who could vault the 33-year-old into title contention.

” I will talk with my coaches to find out who the next opponent is, but I have a preference for a fighter and I would like to compete for the belt,” Xiaonan stated. “The name is Rose Namajunas, because everybody recognizes she’s probably the best fighter in our division. So yeah, I want her. … I like this matchup.”

Namajunas currently ranks as MMA Fighting’s No. 2 strawweight in the world following her anticlimactic title loss to Esparza at UFC 274, which ended her second title reign.

The next defense of the UFC belt is set for Nov. 12 at UFC 281 when Esparza meets Xiaonan’s countrywoman Zhang, and Xiaonan has confidence the title will change hands once again.

“I think Weili can win that fight versus Carla Esparza, because Weili is strong, stronger than Carla,” Xiaonan said. “So it’s going to be very hard for Carla to try to take Weili down.”

If that result happens and Xiaonan gets her wish to face Namajunas, China’s two top strawweights could be on a collision course to meet with gold on the line.

That’s music to Xiaonan’s ears.

“It’s not an issue, me fighting Weili, because just like I said me and Mackenzie [are friendly], we are only opponents in the 25 minutes. Xiaonan stated that we were friends apart from this. The same as Weili. Yeah, we can fight just in the five rounds, 25 minutes we fight against each other. We are also friends .”

outside the cage.