Yancy Medeiros has reached a new level of calm. Stretching in the yard of his parents’ house, the mixed martial artist is relaxed as he recounts the past few years, the conversation animated by his boyish grin and quick laugh.
At 30 years old, he has seen 19 professional fights in four different weight classes. But despite winning his last two Ultimate Fighting Championship matches, he’s at an age where he knows that balance and stability in life is more important than any single win.
Once just a kid trying to make it on the rough West Side of Oʻahu, he now travels the world fighting in the UFC. With this fame and attention come temptations and demands of his time that Medeiros knows can distract him from his focus.
“I am very appreciative, but at times it can be overwhelming,” he says. “Hence, I find myself back at home, back where I started.”
Home, for Medeiros, is the wooden house he grew up in with his parents and two sisters in Waiʻanae. It sits a block from a quiet stretch of beach and has a large lānai overlooking a yard filled with mango and orange trees.
“This is my safe haven. This is where I know I’ll be alright in life,” he says. “I try to get out and represent Hawai‘i as best I can, but at the same time, I don’t want to miss out on the quality time I can have with my immediate family. I don’t want to take time for granted.”
“I am very appreciative, but at times it can be overwhelming. Hence, I find myself back at home, back where I started.”
Three years ago, when Medeiros was fresh off his first UFC win, he was commuting frequently between Hawai‘i and training camps in California.
These days, he’s based full time back on Oʻahu. While he occasionally cross-trains in Waiʻanae, Medeiros usually heads to Kalihi or Kakaʻako to meet up with his teammates.
For professional MMA fighters, there is no such thing as being in season or out of season—instead, it is a daily way of life. While each week’s schedule is different, he remains committed to putting in his 40 hours a week of training, as if he had a 9-to-5 job.
Practices change daily and are a combination of wrestling, jiu jitsu, strength and conditioning, and muy thai. Recently, Medeiros has added yoga to the mix. After waking up at 6:30 a.m., he usually heads to Bikram yoga in Kapolei for a 9 a.m. class.
“Now that I’m getting older, I don’t need the wheel to go harder, I need to turn a different wheel—I have to be smarter,” Medeiros says. “Your body can only physically keep up so much. So, how do you keep your optimal performance with what is going on chronologically? You need to change things up if you want to progress.”
One way Medeiros gives back to his community is by encouraging youth to do the same. West Oʻahu MMA, the gym where he started his career, is open to any kids who want to come in and train, and Medeiros will often pop by, put on some gloves, and do drills with those who’ve shown up.
“I like keeping kids off the street,” Medeiros says, priding himself on never being in a street fight growing up, instead having channeled that energy into martial arts. “When I come in there, their eyes light up, and I say, ‘Hey, this is where I started.’ For me, when I was that age, seeing someone who made it was motivating, so hopefully I can motivate them by putting in my work. Fighting isn’t everything. It’s more than just getting to the top. It’s to be stable and be a positive role model.”
YOGA WITH YANCY
Entering a new chapter of his physicality, Medeiros turned to Bikram yoga three years ago. “I want to be loose, I want to be functional,” he says. “I don’t have to be Superman, I’d rather be Spider-Man.” These two poses help the MMA fighter start the day.
Paschimottanasana (POSH-ee-moh-tan-AHS-anna) Seated Forward Bend, or Intense Dorsal Stretch
one Sit up with legs stretched straight in front of you on the floor. Keep spine erect and toes flexed. Breathe in and slowly raise both arms straight above head and stretch upward. Deeply inhale.
two Exhale slowly and bend forward from the hip with chin moving toward the toes. Continue to keep spine erect.
three Reach to place hands on legs wherever they naturally rest. If able, hold your toes and pull yourself forward to them.
four Hold pose for 10 seconds.
five Repeat for three to four rounds.
Trikanasana (tree-koh-NAH-suh-nuh) Triangle Pose
one Stand with legs a length apart, heels aligned, and right foot turned 90 degrees outward. Keep thighs firm, and turn right thigh outward with right knee cap in line with center of right ankle.
two Exhale while extending torso to the right over right leg, bending at the hip. Strengthen left leg and press outer heel into the floor. Rotate torso left and let the left hip move slightly forward.
three Rest right hand on shin, ankle, or the floor outside right foot. Stretch left arm up to the ceiling.
four Hold pose for 30 seconds.
five Change leg and feet positions and repeat to the left.