Though his 2019 started off about as bad as it could have with two straight losses, featherweight Youssef Zalal was able to close out his year on a high note.
Facing Jaime Hernandez at LFA 79 in November, Zalal exploded with a flying knee half way through the first round, finishing his opponent, and snapping his losing streak in the process. It also led to him fighting at Saturday’s UFC 247 in Houston, Texas.
“That fight came out even better (than anticipated) to be honest with you,” Zalal told MMAWeekly.com. “I did everything I needed to do: stay at range, stay long, not get hit, so it was a good performance I’m happy with.
“I’m typically not happy with my performances, but that one I was very happy with.”
Entering his fourth year of MMA, Zalal feels like the work he’s putting in at the gym has really helped develop his overall game.
“I’m soaking up so much knowledge every day from MMA,” said Zalal. “Training-wise it’s completely helping me a lot.”
This Friday in Houston, Zalal (7-2) steps onto the biggest stage in MMA for the first time when he makes his promotional debut versus Austin Lingo (7-0) in a featherweight preliminary bout at UFC 247. Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones headlines the card, putting his belt on the line opposite Dominick Reyes.
“(Lingo) is a great match-up,” Zalal said. “He is a very exciting fighter. His record says it all. I’ve got to be me. Being me will win this fight 100 percent.
“It’s a motivator to me. I wanted this and I asked for this. This isn’t pressure for me. I’m excited to have this opportunity.”
For Zalal one thing leads to another, and after he’s done what he’s wanted to do for the day, he moves on to the next goal, taking things one step at a time along the way.
“I have a goal,” said Zalal. “Every day I have a goal. Every month I have a goal. Every year I have a goal.
“One of them is to get in the UFC and that one I’ve achieved. But a fight’s a fight and you never know what’s going to happen, so you might not get another fight (in the company) again.”
(Photo courtesy of LFA / Mike “The Truth” Jackson)
UFC 247: Jones vs. Reyes Live Results
Tune in to MMAWeekly.com for full UFC 247: Jones vs. Reyes Live Results on Saturday, Feb. 8, from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones puts his belt on the line against undefeated rising star Dominick Reyes in the headliner. Flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko makes the next defense of her title when she meets Katlyn Chookagian in the UFC 247 co-main event.