Dubai: As only the second Arab fighter to get signed to the UFC, Ali Aqaisi is aware that he is making history for Jordan, a country who salutes sport as an important part of their culture.
But the dream does not stop there.
When he makes his UFC debut in Las Vegas on Saturday against fellow welterweight Irwin Rivera, Alqaisi wants to grab the opportunity and prove to the world that Arab fighters can compete, and succeed, at the highest level in MMA.
“All my hard work is paying off and here I am ready to showcase my skills on the biggest stage in the world,” he told Gulf News via a zoom interview from Las Vegas.
“MMA in Jordan has been booming since 2011, so it’s about time to prove what Jordanian fighters are capable of. We are a tiny country, but have a huge fighting spirit. I cannot wait to display this.
“I’m ready for the second step in my career, to be a UFC champion. I can’t wait to be the first Arab athlete to be holding the UFC title.
“I know it’s just the beginning, but I have a lot of motivation. I’m ready to fight, I feel good, I don’t feel any pressure, any stress. I’m ready to walk into the cage and come away with the win.”
With the support of his parents and family Alqaisi quit his accounting job after university to pursue a career in martial arts - despite how crazy it seemed at the time.
He became a world kung-fu and sanda champion and decided to make the move to MMA at the age of 21. He was beaten by some tough opponents but took a lot of positives out of those experiences to hit hack and win five fights while fighting in five countries.
Asked how he measures up against the 31-year-old Mexican Rivera (9-5-0) Alqaisi said: ” My coaches have watched a couple of his fight videos. I only watched for a couple of minutes to see some stuff I wanted to know.
“I saw that he’s tough, has a good cardio and never gives up, which suits me. I’m ready and I will be bringing everything I have inside the cage.
“He’s a great fighter, an exciting fighter. I think we have the chance to put on ‘Fight of the Night.’ Watch and see. I think I always manage to put on exciting fights.”
Alqaisi believes that all Jordanians and Arab fans around world will be tuning in to watch him make his debut at UFC Fight Night.
“It’s going to be so exciting, to have so many people watching the fight on television around the world, millions of them,” he said. “That motivates me more. I will have an army of supporters in my corner.
The only other Arab fight to get a UFC contract is Dubai-based Algerian Mounir Lazzez, who made a sensation debut at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi last month when he defeated highly regarded Abdul Razak Alhassan in a welterweight contest.