Meet Mounir Lazzez – the ‘Middle East Conor McGregor’ who Dana White signed to the UFC after watching highlights in a restaurant

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The first sign of a goosebump on the skin of a human being is indicative of a reflex started by the sympathetic nervous system.

Quite simply, it is the human body entering the first stages of fight or flight responses.

For Mounir Lazzez, there will be no nerves and no goosebumps on display when he makes his UFC debut in the country he calls home on Fight Island.

Mounir Lazzez is the first fighter born and raised in an Arab country to sign with UFC

@mounir_sniper (Instagram)

Mounir Lazzez is the first fighter born and raised in an Arab country to sign with UFC

The Team Nogueira Dubai welterweight has made the welterweight limit before his clash with Abdul Razak Hassan on Wednesday night.

A Tunisian-born fighter, Lazzez emerged as one of the brightest prospects in his home country on the MMA scene as he excelled in the disciplines of both Muay Thai and boxing.

Lazzez is one of nearly 100 athletes who’ll be staying in Fight Island’s ‘safe zone’, an 11km stretch of Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island locked off to the public as a safety precaution for international guests and the Abu Dhabi community.

The ‘safe zone’ on Yas Island will be in place for the entirety of UFC Fight IslandTM, which will run from July 11 – 26, and will house more than 2,500 people for four events including UFC 251 this weekend.

There are two octagons on Yas Island; one for competition and another on the beach just for the fighters

DCT Abu Dhabi

There are two octagons on Yas Island; one for competition and another on the beach just for the fighters

After moving to Canada to add Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling to his extensive striking arsenal, he turned professional and has since amassed a 9-1 record.

As the first ever born and raised Arab fighter to ever compete for the UFC, the chance to appear on Fight Island is truly an honour.

Lazzez told talkSPORT.com: “As a UAE fighter, it’s so huge for me when they signed this huge contract and I knew I was about to make my UFC debut.

“And when this pandemic came, I don’t think is a more advanced or more safe company in terms of when they create a safe zone for the fighters on the Island and they put staff on the ground – ready for every emergency situation.

“This is what makes me proud to be part of this country, we are working day and night to make it successful for the event and my UFC career and I am sure Abu Dhabi is going to be like the next Las Vegas for the fight capital in the world.

“And it can become the biggest Jiu-jitsu place in the world and attracts black belts from all around the world to compete. And for MMA; they have the deal here now after the UFC chose to fight in Abu Dhabi to make it as a base for Fight Island and hopefully it is going to open other projects up to the UFC.

“It’s a big advantage for it to be on my doorstep and be in the capital of the international fight capital and I am so grateful.”

As evidenced by the main event of UFC 251, staying consistently ready is the way to get ahead in this game. The call from the world’s premier mixed martial arts organisation can come at any moment.

The 31-year-old was born in Tunisia and won plenty of national MMA titles

@mounir_sniper (Instagram)

The 31-year-old was born in Tunisia and won plenty of national MMA titles

However, ‘The Sniper’ found his opportunity came via a rather strange method involving Dana White in a Las Vegas restaurant and his helpful friend.

He said: “So my management had been approached by the UFC already and they had sent my profile to the UFC so there were talks about it and my name was there.

“But what made it start was I think my friend he went direct to Dana White and, by chance, crossed him in Las Vegas in some restaurant and he said ‘I’ve got one guy you need to have a look at his highlights reel’.

“He showed him and Dana said ‘wow, this is what we need in sport’ and he followed me then Dana and put me in contact with [UFC Matchmaker] Sean Shelby and I put him directly in contact with my manager and they offered me a fight.

Dana White was shown Lazzez’s highlight reel in a Las Vegas restaurant

Getty Images – Getty

Dana White was shown Lazzez’s highlight reel in a Las Vegas restaurant

“I didn’t even check who my opponent was because I have been waiting for the moment all my life, I remember I woke up in the morning and was like ‘S***!’

“It was crazy because people are very frustrated, people are losing their job, it’s humbling for me to get this chance while we are in a pandemic. It makes me appreciate it and it has come at the right time; I’m at the right age where I am more mature and I appreciate it more I think.

“I’m more responsible now to represent all Arab countries as the first ever Arab fighter who is born and raised and trained here in an Arab country.”

Given how his rise to the top of the sport has been so expedient and he has a vast array of spectacular finishes in his highlight reel, certain sections of the Arabian media have taken to describing him as ‘The Middle East Conor McGregor’.

The layout for Fight Island displaying the 11km of ‘safe zone’ on Yas Island

DCT Abu Dhabi

The layout for Fight Island displaying the 11km of ‘safe zone’ on Yas Island

However, the 31-year-old is here to make sure the world knows his name after he delivers what he hopes will be typically clinical performance on Saturday night.

“No I don’t know where this information came from, but I’m not the Conor McGregor of the Middle East, I am just Mounir!

“I hope to be more than Conor McGregor for the Middle East!”

“I’m very proud and happy to do this, but for me this is not the achievement,” he added. “It’s not enough to just be in the UFC, to make my UFC debut.

“For me, I want to make my career successful in the UFC, this is my goal. It’s not just to make it there and I am not just someone to put me there.

Check out behind-the-scenes footage of UFC Fight Island on Abu Dhabi before a packed summer of fights

“No, no, they direct me onto the main card in my first fight because they know what I bring to the table. I’m not someone who is hugging people on the side of the cage and make a boring fight safe just to get the win.

“I’m in there fighting for all my friends and fans who have bought the PPV in Dubai and they know they are going to get a show and stand in the cage and make it a war in the stand up.”


talkSPORT 2 will bring you all the action from UFC Fight Island on Thursday morning starting at 1am – including the main event between Calvin Kattar and Dan Ige





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