Dubai: Arab and South Asian fighters are emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the MMA world, a point that will be driven home when Ali Alqaisi, Youssef Zalal and Nasrat Haqparast enter the Octagon at UFC Fight Night on Saturday night/Sunday morning at the Apex Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jordan’s Alqaisi makes his UFC debut in a bantamweight bout with Irwin ‘The Beast’ Riveram, a super explosive lungeing fighter with big punches, while Morocco’s Youssef Zalal takes on New England-based ‘Slippery’ Peter Barrett in a featherweight bout.
Nasrat Haqparast (11-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC), a native of Afghanistan who is fighting out of Germany, competes against debutant Alex Munoz (6-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC).
After three rapid-fire victories against Marc Diakiese, Thibault Goiti and Joaquim Silva, Haqparast was knocked out by Drew Dober in 70 seconds at UFC 246 in January.
Haqparast, 24, was born in Germany to Afghan parents who came to Europe as refugees. He is looking to rebound from that first stoppage defeat during his UFC tenure.
In an interview last season, Haqparast provided an insight to his psyche when he said: I don’t feel any pressure. I’m not nervous. Some people are scared, nervous, they feel pressure because they want to impress people, but the most important thing for me — and this is my mindset — is that I don’t fight to impress people; I fight for myself.
“I don’t do it because of what people are going to say or to make people talk more about me; I don’t care about any of this.
“If you fight for other people, you’re lacking motivation. If you fight for yourself, to bring the best performance you can on that night, that’s different and that’s why I don’t feel any pressure. I enjoy everything about fighting and my training camp.”
Munoz, a wrestling coach at Team Alpha Male, has won all six of his pro fights, including a unanimous decision against Nick Newell on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2018.
The Youssef Zalal (9-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC) v Pete Barrett fight is another short-notice affair after Steve Garcia was forced out.
Zalal steps in with two weeks’ notice to face the Brit.
“It really doesn’t matter to me,” Zalal told MMA Junkie. “You know what they say: The younger guys, you want to get in as much as possible. That’s how I feel.
“I’m so happy that I learned like 30 minutes of me actual fighting in the UFC cage, and that’s going to help me so much just in this fight and in my whole career, to be honest. So for me, I want to stay as active (as possible). I’m only 23 – I want to get as much better as possible.”
Debutant Ali Alqaisi (8-3 MMA) is set to put Jordan on the big stage when he takes on former Titan FC bantamweight champion Rivera (9-5 MMA, 0-1 UFC),
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Alqaisi told MMA Junkie. “It makes me insanely proud to be the first of hopefully many Jordanians to make it.
“MMA in Jordan has been booming since 2011, so it’s about time we got to show our chance in the big leagues. Its funny – the UFC doesn’t yet have a Jordanian fight kit from Reebok. But hopefully by my second fight they will. That’s how big this is for MMA in Jordan.
“We are a tiny country, but have a huge fighting spirit. I cannot wait to display this.”
The August 8 line-up sees former heavyweight champion Derrick Lewis (23-7-0) and the 43-year-old a Ukrainian-born Russian mixed martial artist Aleksei Oleinik (59-13-1) square off in the main event, while Omari Akhmedov (20-4-1), who was born in modern-day Dagestan, Russia, takes on Chris Weidman (14-5-0), who earned worldwide prominence by becoming the first man to defeat Brazilian great Anderson Silva (which he did twice) to become the middleweight champion, a title he held for two-and-a-half years before losing it to Luke Rockhold.