This past February, featherweight Youssef Zalal took the biggest step in his career when he made his promotional debut at UFC 247 with a unanimous decision victory over Austin Lingo.
While he didn’t quite have the performance he wanted to, Zalal was nonetheless happy with the fact that he was able to avoid some of the overwhelming feeling some fighters can have going into their UFC debuts.
“I just wanted to enjoy the moment,” Zalal told MMAWeekly.com. “You know how it is, when you debut, they try to put all this pressure on you, you’re young, you’re from a different country, and all this; so I tried to forget about all that and tried to have fun more than anything.
“I went out there and didn’t feel the pressure at all. It was just like another day at camp. I told people it wasn’t my best performance. I wanted the finish so bad without getting hit.”
A month after Zalal’s win over Lingo, the novel coronavirus shut down MMA, but it ended up not being as big of an issue for him as it was for other fighters.
“I had Ramadan going on, so that was a whole month without being able to train much,” said Zalal. “As soon as Ramadan was over I was right back at work.
“There was definitely some changes in training. We didn’t have a lot of people. We had to figure out the right partners to train with. It was weird. It’s almost back to normal now, but it was a little hard for a little bit, but we figured it out.”
This Saturday in Las Vegas, Zalal (9-2) will look to pick up his third win in a row when he faces Jordan Griffin (18-7) in a preliminary featherweight bout at UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Hooker.
“He’s a big name,” Zalal said of Griffin. “He’s a big vet. He’s 18-7, so when I saw that I couldn’t say no to the fight. He’s a tough guy. He’s a durable guy. For me the challenge is to beat that.”
As long as he’s healthy, Zalal will be looking to return to action as soon as he can following his bout with Griffin.
“I definitely like to stay busy,” said Zalal. “I like short notices. I feel like it doesn’t put all that pressure into training or that stuff at all. For me I love staying busy and having as many fights as possible.”