ABU DHABI – When Petr Yan set out on his MMA journey, he by no means deliberate for a selected opponent. He deliberate for UFC gold.

With a lot dialogue surrounding Henry Cejudo’s retirement and the promotion’s subsequent choice to pair Yan with Jose Aldo, the Russian fighter isn’t excited about self-matchmaking.

If he was to defeat a present champion or if he wins a vacant title, as is Saturday’s alternative, the accomplishment is identical, Yan mentioned Wednesday. This apart, Yan isn’t a fan of Cejudo’s departure.

“My objective is at all times to win the belt – to not defeat Cejudo,” Yan instructed reporters, together with MMA Junkie, by an interpreter throughout a media scrum. “Cejudo ran away. It was his alternative. If he (was) assured he was going to defeat all of those contenders, he would’ve stayed. I don’t know why he ran away. Possibly he’s not assured in himself. Possibly he discovered a 3rd girlfriend like he mentioned. However I’m going to struggle for the belt.”

In a division filled with contenders, the UFC elected for Yan (14-1 MMA, 6-Zero UFC) to struggle Aldo (28-6 MMA, 10-5 UFC) as a substitute of surging Aljamain Sterling. The transfer was questioned by many followers and media as a result of Aldo was coming off a loss in his divisional debut. On Wednesday, Yan defended the UFC’s choice, citing Aldo’s legend standing.

“Yeah, I believe he deserves to struggle for the title,” Yan mentioned. “He’s been promised a title shot earlier than. He’s nonetheless very harmful. Clearly, he’s nonetheless very well-known – a legend of the game. So it’s going to be a really attention-grabbing struggle.”

Yan promised if he wins, he’ll defend his belt towards the bantamweight division’s high contenders. He’s not excited about leaping divisions in pursuit of champ-champ standing.

“In fact my plan is to win the belt first,” Yan mentioned. “I by no means choose opponents. Whoever the UFC matchmakers will select, I’m going to struggle them. I’m going to defend my title towards them. I’m not going to leap divisions. I’m going to concentrate on bantamweight. I’m going to concentrate on defending my belt.”

UFC 251 takes place Saturday at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The primary card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on UFC Combat Cross/ESPN+.