It is still early days for Yousef Al Housani but his objectives are already clear.
He wants to become the first Emirati mixed martial arts world champion and he appears to be on track after a debut victory as a professional following his undefeated run in five amateur fights.
Al Housani announced his arrival to the world stage with a first round submission of Egyptian Mohamed Allam in the UAE Warriors 11 featherweight 66kg at the Mubadala Arena on June 12.
His next stop, provided he receives an invite, is the UAE Warriors 12 at the same venue on July 31.
"When I decided to turn professional my goal was to become a world champion, and mark my words, Inshallah, I will achieve that," Al Housani told The National.
“I trust in my abilities. All the fighters are humans. They are flesh and bone like me. It’s about how hard you work and the hunger to win. I work hard and I believe I have that hunger to win.”
Al Housani, 23, is only the second Emirati professional MMA fighter after Ahmed Al Darmaki, who made his debut in March 2013 and holds a 2-5 win-loss record.
Al Housani in contrast has been training in MMA full time less than a year. Prior to his UAE Warriors debut, he featured in five amateur fights, three in the UAE and twice in Bahrain. He is also undefeated in five amateur Muay Thai appearances.
“I loved martial arts sports from a young age and joined jiu-jitsu classes at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club when I was 12,” he said.
“I took part in many jiu-jitsu competitions locally and abroad, and won several medals including a bronze in the white belt in my first appearance at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship in 2013.”
MMA was always in the back of his mind and with that idea, he started training Muay Thai and boxing in 2015.
“I already had enough experience in jiu-jitsu (reaching purple belt) and started to add other martial arts to my repertoire,” he said. “I do a lot of cross-fit training to keep myself in tip-top condition physically.”
Al Housani is the eldest of five boys in a family of 10. His two younger brothers – Khalid, 21, and Omar, 18, – are blue belts in jiu-jitsu.
Omar is a member of the UAE national team and has two gold medals from the Abu Dhabi World Pro and another gold from the JJIF World Championship.
“He is doing well in jiu-jitsu and he has the potential to follow on my path in MMA,” Al Housani said. “He’s trained with me in jiu-jitsu over the last five years, and is now learning a bit of other martial arts.
“He’s still very young for MMA but I would like to think learning at an early age is a pretty good pathway, should he decide to get into the Octagon at some point.
“My whole family loves martial arts sports and I have uncles and cousins practicing it. I have the support and backing from all of them.”
Al Housani has a full time job in the security division of Adnoc, in which he works 12-hour shifts.
“It’s tough job because I have to cope with my training schedules," he said. “I have to work 12-hour shifts four days a week and I get four days off. But when you have the passion for both, I can still find the time and energy.”
After successful appearances at the UAE Warriors 11, both Al Housani and Al Darmaki have been offered the training facilities with Team 777, one of the leading martial arts training centres in Abu Dhabi.
“I started training here from last week,” Al Housani said. “We have strong training team and training partners in wrestling, sambo, boxing, muay thai and jiu-jitsu at this centre.
“When I first started to train in any martial art I had to spend from my own pocket and this offer from the chairman of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation Abdulmunam Al Hashemi is a very kind gesture to us.”
Besides shuffling his time between work and training, Al Housani still finds time to ride horses, which is one of his favourite hobbies.
He owns five thoroughbred and five Purebred Arabian race horses, and they are kept under the care of Emirati trainer Khalifa Al Neyadi.
“I have always had a liking for horses from my young days and I still find time to ride horses,” he said.
“It takes my mind away from office work and training. It’s all about getting one’s priorities in order and time management. I like to keep myself busy or occupied all the time.”