UFC Fight Island: Mounir Lazzez all smiles after making UFC 'take notice' with sparkling debut
The Tunisian defeated Abdul Razak Alhassan by unanimous decision and collected the Fight of the Night Bonus
After making the UFC “take notice” with a dominant debut display, Mounir Lazzez sauntered into the post-fight media briefing with a smile as wide as his victory.
The Dubai resident had just clocked up a first appearance in the world’s lead mixed martial arts promotion, and with it the win too, grabbing both just down the road in Abu Dhabi.
Lazzez prevailed by unanimous decision against Abdul Razak Alhassan on Thursday morning at UFC Fight Night 1, the second event in the four-show Fight Island.
The former Desert Challenge champion took the contest 30-27, 30-27, 28-27. Warm congratulations followed swiftly from Dana White, the UFC president whose chance meeting with Lazzez’s friend in a Las Vegas restaurant last month led to the opportunity of a lifetime.
“The Sniper” then set sights on his dream coming true, and duly delivered. For him, though, it’s only the start.
“It’s always hard in this sport to stay humble and this is just the beginning,” a beaming Lazzez said shortly before collecting $50,000 (Dh183,625) bonus for Fight of the Night. “I beat a guy I think who’s top 15, but now my name will go to the ranking direct.
“Dana is happy, UFC are happy, that’s the most important. I will step back and talk to my management. Now I think the UFC’s capital is Abu Dhabi, and I’m here in Dubai. I’m healthy, I’m ready to go: just give me two weeks’ notice and I can take anyone in the top 15.
“I want to take my career step-by-step, but it’s hard nowadays because there is a lot of new talent and they like to stay busy. So that’s exactly what I’m planning: to stay busy too, and show my case in my second hometown. I hope all of you enjoyed the show tonight.”
Lazzez certainly put one on. Initially, he survived an early flurry from Alhassan - a 4-1 UFC fighter despite having not competed for almost two years - then settled into his game plan and began to take control. As Alhassan tired, Lazzez’s knees, kicks and elbows did damage.
“I know he’s a heavy hitter,” Lazzez said. “That’s exactly the plan of Mahdi, one of my guys who likes to spar every single day. He knows I have a chin.
“But my coach Sean says to me ‘Always hit and don’t get hit’. I’m happy with it - I got a couple of punches, I entertained people and that’s exactly what we planned for. It’s never perfect. We got the deal done, that’s the most important.”
As his pre-fight smile betrayed, and his overall attitude this week conveyed, Lazzez doesn’t seem to suffer much from nerves.
“It’s weird, I feel normal, because I’ve been seeing this in my mind,” he said. “It’s just a moment, I feel it, like any other fight. I felt calm and composed in the beginning, then we had two or three punches and we go to the scrap.
“We adjusted, we picked the second and third round for domination. I’m just happy to go get my pizza.”
Eyeing even greater rewards, Lazzez moved to 10-1 in professional MMA, with eight of those coming via knockout. As he said, a quick turnaround is preferable, with him acting the UFC veteran by calling out fellow welterweight Mike Perry.
Asked why he had a problem with American, who made headlines recently for some regrettable behaviour away from the sport, Lazzez said: “Just because my teammate Darren Till has an issue with him. So if one of my team has a problem with someone, he has a problem with all of us.
UFC Fight Island 1 in pictures
“I just want to put him in his place because he’s an idiot and he’s been inspiring the new generation with his idiot stuff he does. I just want to put him in his place.
“Whatever the UFC… they throw for me a killer, so I’m happy to take any killer. Now they notice me.”
White made that known right outside the octagon.
“He was super happy with the performance,” Lazzez said. “I said to him ‘Just keep an eye on us’. It’s been a long journey to get the attention of the UFC matchmakers, finally I get it and I used it. And I’m happy with that.”
And so he should be. Lazzez, who fights out of Team Nogueira Dubai, entered the press conference chatting on his phone with his wife and his young son. His other half was simply checking in to see if he was happy and healthy, he said. Both, it appears.
“It made me appreciate the moment even more; it humbled me,” Lazzez said. “This is the dream. I do it for myself and my family, so I’m super happy about it. That’s why you saw that smile on my face.”
As for the planned victory celebrations, he said: “We will go back to the hotel with my guys. Sean has been torturing me - he doesn’t want me to drink my 7Up, so I think I will get 10 cans of 7Up and we’ll order pizza from there. Then we’ll get some media obligations and we’ll head back to Dubai.”
Updated: July 16, 2020 11:02 AM