The featherweight will try to take a big step forward when he faces Roel “Akiyama” Rosauro in the first bout of ONE: REVOLUTION on Friday, 24 September, and he can’t wait to kick-start the massive event in style.
“It’s wild, man, opening for ONE: REVOLUTION. I just look forward to going out there and rocking the show, starting it off with a bang. That’s what I want to do,” Yang says.
Though it’ll be his first time competing in the big leagues, the American has the advantage of training alongside the mixed martial arts GOAT on a daily basis at AMC Pankration in Washington.
Working with the best helped equip Yang with the skills and mentality needed to produce an unbeaten amateur career. And going forward, he’s ready to reach the next level under the guidance of his coaches and teammates.
“It’s a daily grind together. I’m constantly learning from [Johnson] — not just in the gym, but outside the gym too,” he says.
“I’ve been there with him now for about six or seven years. Through that whole journey, I’ve been there for the highs and lows. It’s been like a roller coaster, but I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.
“He’s always been a great mentor. And not just him, the other guys that you don’t know about on the team too. They all have great experience, and we all feed off of each other. It’s more like a brotherhood; it’s like a family.”
The debutant will undoubtedly come well-prepped for his first showcase on the global stage, but his opponent will be looking to stop the hype train before it even leaves the station.
Yang knows Rosauro will pose problems with his experience and skill set, and he’s not taking anything for granted ahead of their tussle.
“He is a very dangerous guy, but I’m ready for that challenge,” the AMC Pankration representative says of the Filipino.
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Rosauro is certainly extra motivated to pick up where he left off.
When the Cebu native last appeared inside the Circle, he dominated Yohan “The Ice Man” Mulia Legowo with his heavy striking – in particular, his punishing body shots – to earn a unanimous decision victory.
That being said, Yang has been careful not to spend too much time focusing on what his opponent will bring to the Circle. Instead, he’s spent his energy on sharpening himself and adding to his arsenal.
“[Rosauro’s] strengths are his striking. He’s a southpaw. He’s got a strong left leg kick. And his deficiencies are, I don’t know. Maybe he has no deficiencies,” the American offers.
“I don’t try to think too much about what his weaknesses and what his strengths are. I just think about what I need to do to improve myself and my game. Because, ultimately, I can watch videos of this guy and say, ‘Okay, he’s deficient here, he does this, he does that,’ and then we get to fight day and he does it completely different from anything he’s ever done.
“That can really just change everything. So in my mind, I just think he’s covering all of his holes. He’s been taking time over the years to develop his game, and I just need to be the best version of myself.”
Like his mentor, “Mighty Mouse,” Yang believes his own ability to react and overcome variables is his greatest asset and offers the best route to victory on 24 September.
“The thing about combat sports is whoever can adapt the best is going to be able to ultimately win,” he says.
“It’s all about who can outsmart who in this game. We’re all physically menacing people, or they all are, but what sets it apart is the brains. I think that’s where I’ll have my advantage.”
It’s clear that Yang is excited to get the next stage of his career underway, and while there’s plenty of hard work ahead, he’s not afraid to dream big.
“World Champion is what I’ve set my sights on since day one. I have a goal set and when it’s set, I’m not going to stop until I get there,” he says.
But ONE Championship’s featherweight division is stacked, and the American knows he’ll need memorable stoppages to reach the top.
“The biggest thing in this game is you have to finish people, and in emphatic fashion,” Yang adds.
“Whether it’s a knockout, whether it’s a nasty submission, it doesn’t matter. No disrespect to my opponents, but I have to go out and finish them. That’s just the only way you move ahead in this sport.
“I know it’s a big mountain to climb. There’s a lot of competition ahead of me – steep competition. But I always welcome that challenge, and I’m ready for it.”