Yancy Medeiros aims to prove he belongs at top after ESPN’s Fight of the Year


How long did it take Yancy Medeiros to accept his next matchup, following a back-and-forth war with Alex Oliveira on Dec 2 — ESPN’s 2017 Fight of the Year?

About three weeks.

Medeiros (15-4) is set to meet Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone (32-10) in a five-round main event at UFC Fight Night on Sunday, in Austin, Texas. The bout came together just three weeks after Medeiros rallied to a highlight TKO win over Oliveira.

“I think it was Christmas Eve, my manager sent me a text about ‘Cowboy,'” Medeiros told ESPN. “I was like, ‘Yeah, tell him I’ll fight him on March 3. The UFC came back with a main event on Feb. 18. It was like a Christmas present.”

Earlier in his UFC career, Medeiros, 30, probably wouldn’t have been able to comply with the quick turnaround.

When Medeiros signed with the promotion in 2013, he was committed to the lightweight division. That weight cut, however, has grown more difficult over time, and Medeiros opted to move to welterweight in late 2016.

He’s a perfect 3-0 since that move, and feels better physically and mentally at 170 pounds. And he also recovers faster.

“I needed more of a break after my tough fight with Francisco Trinaldo at lightweight,” Medeiros said. “I believe it’s the weight. I can take more damage, and recover better. I’m eating when I need to eat. I’m not malnourishing myself.”

This weekend’s opportunity — a name like Cerrone, under a main event spotlight — is the biggest of Medeiros’ career. And although he’s a betting underdog, he’s never been in a better place to pull an upset.

A native of Makaha, Hawaii, Medeiros’ MMA career began in a garage, training alongside Hawaiian pioneer David Pa’aluhi.

As his career has blossomed, so has training conditions in Hawaii. Medeiros has bounced back and forth between his home state and Stockton, California, to train with Nick and Nate Diaz, for years, but is finding that type of cross training less necessary.

One of his primary sparring partners and closest friends is UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway.

“We leave our egos at the door,” Medeiros said. “When I’m sparring with Max, if he catches me with something good, I don’t say, ‘Oh, I gotta get you back.’ I say, ‘Nice job. How’d you get that?’

“We’re on this wave that is just surreal. I’m grateful and appreciate that I have these great coaches and team around me.”

That pride in his home, plus a desire to give back to the fan base that has embraced him, is behind Medeiros’ (and Holloway’s) pleas for the UFC to host an event there in 2018.

A win against Cerrone this weekend will neither guarantee nor ruin that possibility, but it certainly won’t hurt its chances.

“Last year, I wanted to show the welterweight class that I’m relevant,” Medeiros said. “This year, I want to show the UFC and the welterweights that I belong at the top.

“I don’t want to just be an asset to this company. I want to be an investment. All these fighters are saying, ‘I need this, I need that.’ Everyone is talking with their mouths. I’m just going to shut up and talk with my hands. The UFC is giving me these situations and I’m going to take them in full stride.”

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