Emirati Mohammad Yahya is gearing up for the biggest night in his mixed martial art career in Abu Dhabi.
Yahya headlines the UAE Warriors Arabia 4 as the first Emirati to fight for a title when he takes on Algerian Yazid Chouchane for the lightweight belt at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena.
Yahya enters the cage with 9-3 win-loss record and is quietly confident in his chances at a first MMA belt to add to the multiple titles he’s won in kickboxing.
“To contest for the No 1 position in the promotion is indeed a big night, and yes, you can say it’s the biggest night for me in my MMA career,” Yahya told The National.
“This title contest means a lot to me. I’m representing my country and fighting in front of my home fans. There is a lot at stake. I want to see the UAE flag raised after the fight.
“I have featured in title fights in kickboxing but this is the first time in MMA and also on a big stage like the UAE Warriors Arabia.
“The promotion is already established and the UAE Warriors Arabia has provided a solid platform for the Arab fighters. It also paves the way for the Arab fighters to compete in their international events.”
Yahya made his MMA professional debut in Desert Force-11 on March 2014, winning five of his first six fights.
He made a sensational debut at the Bellator-191, knocking out England's Ashley Griffiths in the first round but then lost to another Englishman Gavin Hughes in Bellator Birmingham.
Yahya made his UAE Warriors debut on October 2019 and holds a 4-1 record in the promotion.
“It’s been a long journey for me in combat sports but have been enjoying every moment of it,” Yahya said.
“There was one other person who turned pro before me but I was the youngest at that time and now the longest serving Emirati fighter in the professional circuit.”
Yahya’s opponent Chouchane (7-2) is undefeated in two UAE Warriors appearances.
He clinched a split decision over Jordanian Mostafa Ibrahim Radi in the Arabia edition in January and won a unanimous decision over Kuwaiti Ahmad Al Boussairy in March.
“He’s a tough guy. We have competed in the same card in March and I know one or two things about him, but as always there can be elements of surprises in this game,” Yahya said of his France-based opponent.
The 13-fight card also features a second title contest between Kuwaiti Abdulla Al Bousheiri and Moroccan Badreddine Diani for the welterweight title.
The UAE Warriors-22 takes place on Saturday at the same venue. The 14-fight card is headlined by the bantamweight showdown between the Germany-based Palestinian Rany Saadeh and American Shawn Bunch.
It’s the third time in a row that the promotion is organising back-to-back fight cards. Fouad Darwish, CEO of Palms Sports, said it wasn’t the plan but has become immensely popular with the MMA fraternity.
“We are always working in providing the best opportunities for our fighters and the fans, and it’s working well all-round,” Darwish added.
“Having said that, our next fight card won’t be another back-to-back event. We would like to mix it up, and continue provide the best platform for our contestants as well as for the fans.”