UAE's Ilyass Habibali wins K-1 Combat light heavyweight title

Emirati, 29, dominates Ireland’s Damian Darker at Festival Village in Dubai

The UAE's Ilyass Habibali beat Ireland’s Damian Darker to win the K-1 Combat and Continental light heavyweight title in Dubai on Friday.

Making only his second professional appearance, Habibali dominated to score a unanimous points decision over Darker at Festival City to win his first kickboxing title to add to his two muaythai world and continental titles.

“This belt is for our federation, team and the technical staff,” Habibali said.

“Damian is an experienced fighter. He is a European champion and a tough opponent. It is the first time I competed over five rounds.

“I have had a long camp of three months to get this job done tonight. Now I’ll take two weeks break to recover, because I have also a few injuries. Having said that, I am glad to be back in action."

Habibali's foray into kickboxing is a means to keep him active for the twice-postponed Muaythai World Championship in Abu Dhabi, now slated for 2021.

He won gold at the Asian Muaythai Championship in Abu Dhabi last December having captured the UAE's first gold at the World Muaythai Championships in Mexico the previous year.

The 29-year-old won his pro debut at the inaugural K-1 Combat in September and aims to carry that momentum into the new year when he returns to his primary discipline.

“As professional fighters, you need to stay in competitive level all the time, and the success I have had in kickboxing so far is a great way to keep myself ready for the muaythai worlds,” he said.

“I won gold at the muaythai worlds and my goal now is to aim for the world belt.”

The second edition of K-1 Combat, held behind closed doors, consisted of 14 fights with UAE fighters winning six.

Amine El Moatassime, Zakaria El Jamari, Mohammed Mardi, Ibrahim Al Hammadi and Ibrahim Bilal tasted success along with Habibali.