Ilyass Habibali headlines an intriguing fight card that includes three title contests in the Muaythai Pro 6 Championships at the Festival City in Dubai on Friday.
The Emirati star clashes with Spain’s Angel Marquez for the Intercontinental lightweight belt.
Joining him in the title contests are teammates Amine El Moatassime, who takes on Italian Francesco Iadanza in the Intercontinental middleweight division, and Zakaria El Jamari who faces Phillip Delarmino of the Philippines for the Asian featherweight belt.
Habibali is returning to action following his defeat to Mikita Shostak of Belarus in the K-1 Royal Battle main light heavyweight contest at Emirates Palace Hotel on March 26.
"This time the stakes are high with a title up for grabs, and obviously I need to bounce back," Habibali, who stunned the world by winning a gold when the UAE made their debut at the World Championship in Mexico in 2018, told The National.
“I have trained well since my last fight. We had a camp in Abu Dhabi and I’m in good shape. The contests at this level are always very hard but that’s what this game is about.
“I have watched my opponent’s videos. He too must have studied me. Nowadays there is nothing to hide. We just go out there and take out each other and it’s the best on the night.”
Habibali was crowned the Asian champion when the UAE hosted the continental championships in December 2019.
However, the coronavirus lockdown that followed meant Habibali had to spend nine months before making a successful return to action to win back-to-back K-1 Kickboxing Championship contests in Dubai.
“Thanks to our federation we were fortunate to start competitions with the safety protocols during the pandemic times,” Habibali added.
“It was quite hard to stay motivated and in good shape knowing we were into a lockdown for a long time. We were all glad when the competitions resumed and now looking forward for Friday.”
Tariq Al Muhairi, executive director of the UAE Muaythai and Kickboxing Federation, pointed out they have managed to stage top-flight muaythai and kickboxing competitions successfully under the challenging pandemic times.
“This championship is our season-ending event and has drawn a very competitive card with top-flight fighters from around the world and include three title contests,” he said.
“We have taken every safety and preventive measures and strictly implemented the government’s Covid-19 protocols to ensure the events are staged under a safe environment.”
“As a federation founded in 2017, we have done extremely well to win a gold on our debut in the World Championships, hosted the Asian Championships in 2019 and will host the 2022 Muaythai World Championships.”
The fight card consists of leading muaythai fighters from around the world and includes a female lightweight contest between French star Myriame Djedidi and Belgian Ines Es Salehy.
Djedidi is the Intercontinental and European champion, trying to not only step closer to the world title but also get important points towards the World Games.