Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 August 2020

UFC

'I’m coming to make my UFC career successful' - Dubai fighter Mounir Lazzez ready to rumble in Abu Dhabi

Tunisian takes on Abdul Razak Alhassan at Fight Night 1 on Thursday

After more than two weeks’ quarantine in his Dubai gym, and another 48 hours in his Abu Dhabi hotel room, Mounir Lazzez showed up for his first ever UFC media blitz as if it was just another day.

The Dubai-based Tunisian had left his room only around an hour or so beforehand, initially speaking to local broadcasters and fulfilling the other press obligations that come with competing for the world’s lead mixed martial arts organisation.

On Thursday morning, Lazzez makes his UFC debut, opening the main card at Fight Night 1, the second event on this inaugural Fight Island. He takes on Abdul Razak Alhassan, an already talented Ghanaian who has a serious point to prove, yet Lazzez seemed to be taking everything in his stride.

For the first time on Monday, literally.

“It’s like I’m someone coming from the outside as well,” he said of the quarantine process put in place by local organisers. “I’m super happy just to get out of my room, appreciating more the moment, grabbing my coffee fresh and getting all this media. I’m just enjoying the process.”

He most certainly appeared to be. Not even the UFC camera crew that followed him around the W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island, or the assembled media that awaited him on Monday, could unsettle him.

“It’s a happy moment,” Lazzez said. “I was visualising for a long time that I would make the walk to the octagon in Las Vegas, the MGM Grand, or somewhere.

“But it’s on my doorstep here; I’ve lived in Dubai for nine years. So this is a proud moment for me to make it here at Fight Island. This is a safe zone that [the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi] have made for us and a big shout out and thanks to them for keeping us healthy and safe and able to compete and do our duty. I’m super pumped and excited for that.”

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Little wonder. Lazzez has definitely put in the groundwork. His training has been adjusted to replicate fighting early on Thursday (around 6am), while official referees were brought into his camp and the gym kept empty to mirror a Flash Forum that, because of the tight Covid-19 restrictions, won’t house any paying spectators.

The 15 days’ lockdown in Dubai, free from distraction and giving “The Sniper” laser focus, provided the perfect preparation.

“I adapt mentally always in every situation,” Lazzez said. “You can put me in a seven-star hotel or put me down to the bridge to sleep. I would be more than happy. For me it’s inside me – I create my own happiness and my own path.”

He hopes that path is only beginning.

“I’m not here just to make it to the UFC,” Lazzez said. “I’m coming to make my UFC career successful. This is my goal.

“To be honest, I got nervous during other fights before. I don’t know, I’m super calm and chilled. Because I’ve been visualising this moment since a long time and it’s happening during this crazy time, the pandemic and people struggling and a lot of business in crisis.

“I’m super grateful. It’s come at the right time and I can keep working and show my case for the fans all around the world. This is a huge opportunity for me. It humbled me first, and it showed everything happens for a reason.

“Sometimes I hate stuff that did not work out in my career. But then I understood it’s for good because it opens another door.”

The door could be to the big time. Although, Lazzez is making a significant step up in class. He may be a former Desert Challenge welterweight champion, but he faces a man with four wins from five UFC appearances, including his past three.

Alhassan, however, hasn’t fought in almost two years after being indicted in 2018 on charges related to alleged assault. He was eventually found not guilty.

The time away from the sport could fuel his fire on Thursday.

“He’s a well-rounded fighter, he’s someone who brings the show, and that’s exactly what I want,” Lazzez said. “I don’t want an easy contest. I always say it: put me against some high level and I will show you my level, too.

“I adapt always. What I bring to the table [is] a lot of violence, calm and smart to deliver the best result. I have fans who always expect there to be fireworks and the best performance. And that’s what I’m going to give them.”

And then maybe a major UFC event, sometime down the line, in his adopted home.

“That’s the dream come true,” Lazzez said. “I’m sure the UFC didn’t come for me this time. But make no mistake: they’re going to come for me in Dubai.”

Updated: July 14, 2020 11:25 AM

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