Road to redemption: Morocco’s Youssef Zalal beats 3 men in single night to earn another UFC crack

Road to redemption: Morocco’s Youssef Zalal beats 3 men in single night to earn another UFC crack
Road to redemption: Morocco’s Youssef Zalal beats 3 men in single night to earn another UFC crack

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Road to redemption: Morocco’s Youssef Zalal beats 3 men in single night to earn another UFC crack

Mixed martial arts is a sport of exceptionally high stakes.

Besides the obvious health risks, the result of a single fight can determine whether you have a future and can put food on the table.

At 27 years of age, Youssef Zalal (13-5-1) has weathered adversity and now prepares to grasp a sudden opportunity at UFC redemption against Billy Quarantillo (18-5) this weekend.

The Moroccan Devil’s path in the octagon has been marked by both triumphs and tribulations. The Casablanca-born fighter won his first two UFC fights before losing a unanimous decision to the now-champion, Ilia Topuria.

 

 

Two more losses followed and then a contentious draw with Da’Mon Blackshear in 2022, a fight Zalal believes he won. The young striker then found himself released from the organization — a setback that would have deterred a lesser fighter.

However, Zalal refused to be defined by defeat, channeling his disappointment into a relentless drive to prove his worth on the world stage.

Reflecting on his journey, Zalal spoke with renewed determination in an interview with Arab News.

“Before, I was fighting not to get embarrassed ... That’s not how fighting is. Fighting is to be the best mixed martial artist.”

It is a shift in mindset that reflects Zalal’s growth both inside and outside the octagon.

In this game, it pays to be resilient.

“I was in The Ultimate Fighter last week ... they flew me out from Monday to Friday. I get the producer to walk in and he says hey, you didn’t make the final cut,” Zalal recalled. He considered giving up but then the call came for the short-notice clash with Billy Q.

“For me to come in and to come into a bigger show and obviously a bigger name, it means a lot to me, and I’m super excited for the opportunity … This is an exciting guy ... He just breaks people down, so I definitely smiled (when I got the call) and I was like, ‘man, this is gonna be a fight,’” said Zalal.

After being let go by the UFC, The Moroccan Devil was forced to grind in the minor leagues of the sport but soon provided a stark reminder of what got him to the dance in the first place.

 

 

“The last two years or three years since I’ve been out of the UFC, it’s been a rollercoaster ride, but it’s been a good rollercoaster,” Zalal said.

He recalls a pivotal moment in his career when he faced the ultimate test of endurance — competing in a grueling tournament where he fought three opponents in a single night to be crowned “King of Sparta.”

“The last fight that I fought was a three-fight tournament ... It was super pressuring. If you lose the first fight, you get zero dollars of the money,” Zalal said. “But what I learned from the past ... was just letting my experience take over ... I’m very blessed about that.”

Zelal finished all three opponents to create a buzz once again around his name.

In addition to his physical prowess, Zalal draws strength from his unwavering faith that has guided him through the darkest of times. As a devout Muslim, the holy month of Ramadan holds profound significance for Zalal.

However, the demands of training and competition present unique challenges and he was given special permission not to fast for the first 10 days of the holy month.

“I had to get my family on the same page, I had to get my family’s approval, I had to get the sheikh’s approval,” he said. “I’m not fasting for those 10 days, but for my fight, it’s okay. Now, I have to donate every day to a Muslim ... so my goal now is to donate (to make up for) those 10 days and really keep my faith after Ramadan.”

Zalal was the first Moroccan in the UFC when he debuted four years ago. Now as he prepares to step back into the Octagon, facing off against a hardened veteran, he does so with enhanced wisdom and steely resolve.

His journey — from release to redemption — embodies the resilience and determination that define the sport of MMA.

Zalal is looking to use his experiences to take his career to the next level and is hoping his path can provide inspiration to others.

“Just because you had a failure doesn’t mean that there’s not light under the tunnel.”

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I am Jeff King and I’m passionate about business and finance news with over 4 years in the industry starting as a writer working my way up into senior positions. I am the driving force behind Al-KhaleejToday.NET with a vision to broaden the company’s readership throughout 2016. I am an editor and reporter of “Financial” category. Address: 383 576 Gladwell Street Longview, TX 75604, USA Phone: (+1) 903-247-0907 Email: [email protected]