Adrian Yanez knew what went wrong the moment referee Keith Peterson stepped in and stopped his April fight with Rob Font, resulting in his first UFC loss. And he wasn’t happy about it.
“I forgot who I had in front of me,” said Yanez, more than six months removed from the defeat and ready to put it in his rearview mirror as he approaches his Saturday matchup against Jonathan Martinez.
That doesn’t stop pesky interviewers from asking him about the Font fight, though. Thankfully, the all-class Yanez has no issue revisiting that night in Miami.
“I said it a lot during that camp, and I said it a lot in interviews leading up to it, that Rob Font - with all due respect, and I mean no disrespect by it - that guy was a cockroach. That guy just would not die. He's been dropped, he's been hurt, and he's always found a way to survive. And I would always mean that in the most respectful way because I don't know how else to describe it. The guy gets popped, he gets hit, he's able to fight through it, and I forgot who I had in front of me.”
So when Yanez had some success early on and appeared to be on his way to his fifth knockout win as a member of the UFC roster, the Puerto Rican Zombie came alive.
“He did some veteran things and some real slick stuff,” said Yanez, who soon found himself on the receiving end of Font’s hammers. That only made the Texan angry, and he will describe what happened next better than I can.
“Within that first minute, I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be a short night.’ And then he started putting his game plan together and I started doing things that deviated away from my game plan, and he started building momentum. He started landing shots, and instead of me re-centering myself and getting back to the game plan, I went in complete meathead mode and got angry and started to throw harder shots, putting myself out of position. And by the time I realized what I was doing, it was too late.”
At 2:57 of the first round, Font had a TKO victory and Yanez a crushing defeat. On the bright side, we now have “meathead mode” as a part of the MMA lexicon, but in all seriousness, you can tell the defeat still stings Yanez a little. And that’s understandable. But it wasn’t all bad.
“It was a big level jump, but as short as the fight was, I realized that, hey, I belong up here. I just needed a mentality shift. So even though I lost, I knew that I just needed to change a few things. I was able to get away with certain stuff before because I had the power, some guys weren't able to handle it, and I was able to get guys out of there. I should have fought the way I fought Davey (Grant). In that fight, I was in a position where I had to fight technical, and I couldn't let my emotions get the best of me.”
Emotions were running high before the November 2021 bout, as Yanez’ longtime coach, Saul Soliz, passed away just a few months prior. Being in with a tough out in Grant didn’t make things any easier, but Yanez pushed through, picked up a close decision win, and a Fight of the Night bonus to boot. Now he’ll need to get that calm, cool and collected mindset back for Martinez, after a brief hiccup against Font. And while the 29-year-old has always been popular with fight fans, some folks disappear after a loss. That hasn’t really been the case with Yanez.
“I definitely saw the support,” he said. “And then also, at the same time, getting support from fellow fighters was the coolest part for me. Of course, you're going to have those people that will constantly be in your comments and just saying some really hateful stuff and all that. But again, that's just maybe about five percent. So, it's like, why focus on the five percent when 95 percent of it is positive?
Adrian Yanez | Top Finishes
Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!
Adrian Yanez | Top Finishes
Israel Adesanya, Diana Belbita and Dominick Cruz all reached out to Yanez in the days after the Font fight, and yeah, people being kind does mean a lot to anyone on the receiving end.
“For as negative of a fight that was for me, I took a lot of positives out of that,” he said. “And even after the fight, there's a lot of positive stuff that happened.”
Not surprisingly, there was little to no sulking done when the dust settled. Not that Yanez had any choice considering that his son didn’t care too much about the result of dad’s fight when his diaper needed changing.
For a day, it really hurt,” said Yanez. “After the fight, I went back to the hotel room and I messaged my family and was like, ‘Hey, I just want to deal with this for this one night. I just want to handle this, let me be, and then in the morning I'll go see y'all.’ And then in the morning, it was a weird moment for me. I went back, got to see my family and I knew the severity of the fight for me. I knew that was the fight that was going to be a life-changing moment if I were to win. So walking up to my family and just seeing them kind of broke me, in a sense. But with them being so supportive and just being there for me, within minutes I was fixed.”
As for young Mr. Yanez…
“My son just walked up to me and wanted to play with me immediately, and I was like, you know what? I'm the king of the world right now. This is amazing. Yeah, they love me no matter what.”
That’s all it took for Yanez to get his mojo back. Losses hurt, but the result isn’t what really matters. What matters is how you win and how you lose and how you move on from both. Yanez cares about his day job and how this can be the vehicle to get into the history books and set his family up for life. That’s a lot for him to hold on his shoulders but doing it as a gentleman and a true pro has to be even more difficult. But he’s handling it all just fine.
“I'm never going to be the guy that goes out there and makes an excuse,” said Yanez. “I felt a hundred percent (against Font). That's the best I ever felt going into fight week. I was in the best shape of my life. I was good; Font was just the better guy that night and it's not hard for me to just give him his props. Every time I saw him, I was like, ‘Man, on some real-life stuff, I respect you. I looked up to you and this is an honor.’ Even after the fight, I told him, ‘Hey, good combo.’ And I really meant it when I said that I looked up to him. And being like that has never been hard for me. Again, I have no one else to blame but myself. If you never own up to what you've done, you'll never grow.”
UFC Fight Night: Yusuff vs Barboza took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 14, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!