As is the case for many successful athletes, Adrian Yanez has benefited from the influence of a strong role model that set him on the right path. Yanez actually had the influence of two strong role models, rather than just one.
The first was his father.
“I’ve always been a boxing fan. I was raised around it,” Yanez told Combat Press. “My dad was a Golden Gloves boxer, but then he opted to join the military.
“Then I remember watching the UFC fight between Matt Hughes and Carlos Newton, and when Hughes hit that slam that knocked Newton out, it changed my whole world. I was introduced to a whole new sport and whole new skill.”
Yanez’s mother drove him to the Metro Fight Club in Houston, where, at the age of 18, he would meet his second role model: Saul Soliz.
Soliz has coached some of the biggest names in mixed martial arts, including Tito Ortiz, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Ricco Rodriguez, Mark Kerr, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman and Matt Hamill.
“He taught me so much, not just in MMA, but in life,” Yanez said of Soliz. “I had a chance to go to California to see Tito Ortiz’s camp and watch [Soliz] train fighters like ‘Cyborg’ [Cristiane Justino]. It opened me up to how a fight camp is supposed to be. He helped turn me from an amateur to a pro, and I’m truly grateful for him molding me into what I am. It’s been a blessing to have such a great mentor.”
Yanez competed exclusively as an amateur for the U.S. Amateur Combat Association, where he compiled an undefeated record, including four consecutive TKO finishes.
“I always say that my first four pro fights weren’t as tough as my first six amateur fights,” said Yanez. “I had a really good amateur experience. I had some tough guys to get through, or else I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Yanez won three of his first four pro fights. He was given the opportunity to fight for Bellator MMA in 2016. He defeated Ryan Hollis.
“It was the biggest stage I had been on, since Bellator is the second-biggest promotion in the world,” Yanez said. “My father died before that fight, so I had a lot going on. But it was a really good experience. I had to tough through some adversity, but I was happy to win and make my family happy.”
Yanez will bring his overall record of 5-1 into the next Legacy Fighting Alliance card on Friday, March 24. He will fight Domingo Pilarte (6-1) at 135 pounds. Yanez split his first two fights for the former Legacy FC, which recently merged with the Resurrection Fighting Alliance to form the LFA.
“Both of those organizations were competing on AXS TV, so why not merge the two and have the best on [RFA’s] side with the best on [Legacy’s] side?” Yanez said. “They were already doing the superfights with ‘Legacy vs. RFA,’ so it makes for some good competition. Everyone steps up their performances because they want to be on the bigger stage. LFA gets some of the best from all over the world.”
Yanez has to step up his own performance as well.
“I’ll have to diversify my game too, which makes me hungrier,” said Yanez. “I love me some fierce competition, so to face a guy like Pilarte is a blessing.
“I’m preparing to be a better fighter myself. When you game-plan for others and don’t focus on yourself, you won’t be as successful. If I make myself better and round myself out, I’m going to give him problems. I’m not taking anything away from Pilarte — he’s a really tough fighter — but I think I’ve had tougher opponents.”
Even though Yanez had a taste of success on the big stage with Bellator and is open to fighting for the organization again, his ultimate goal in MMA is the same as most every other fighter. He wants to make it to the UFC.
“That’s where the main competition goes,” Yanez said. “That’s the major leagues.”
On March 24, Yanez will have the influence of his father and coach to continue guiding him on his journey to the biggest stage in all of MMA.