Amir Albazi dedicated his UFC victory on Sunday to the city of Baghdad after it was hit by a double suicide bombing last week.
The Iraqi fighter, who was making his second appearance in the promotion, kicked off UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi with a unanimous-decision win against Zhalgas Zhumagulov. All three judges scored the bout at the Etihad Arena 29-28.
Speaking inside the octagon directly afterwards, Albazi said: “A couple of days ago a lot of people died in Iraq, there were two suicide bombings. I want to dedicate this victory to them and to everyone who shed blood for my country, Iraq.”
On Thursday, 32 people died in back-to-back suicide bombings on a market in central Baghdad. More than 100 people were injured. Albazi was born in the Iraqi capital, but forced at age seven to flee the country with his family.
The victory took him to two wins from two in the UFC. Albazi, whose professional record stands at 14-1, won on debut at the inaugural Fight Island in Abu Dhabi in July.
“I feel a bit of pain, and a lot of happiness,” he told reporters afterwards. “It’s good pain. The fight was good, it was a hard, tough fight. I expected to perform better, I had a lot more in my game that I wanted to put in, but a win is a win. Like we say, Alhamdulilllah.”
Albazi, 27, dropped down from bantamweight to fight at flyweight. The division has enjoyed a resurgence the past year, spearheaded by current champion Deiveson Figueiredo.
“The flyweights are getting excited again,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting back in again and putting on an even better performance.
“I’m coming for that belt. I want to work myself towards that. I’m not here to just be a part of the UFC, I’m here to take the first belt back to Iraq and back to an Arab nation.”