UFC’s Zalal approaching Woodson bout with new mentality

UFC featherweight Youssef Zalal has been in this position before. Coming off two losses in the Legacy Fighting Alliance in 2019, Zalal rebounded with a flying knee victory over Jaime Hernandez.

Now in the UFC, Zalal once again has his back against the wall. Entering his Saturday, June 6, fight with Sean Woodson, Zalal has lost decisions to Ilia Topuria and Seung Woo Choi in the past year.

In a 15-minute interview, Zalal spoke about training during Ramadan, his fight with Woodson and what it takes to train for a rangy opponent.

“I’m not happy the way the performances went,” Zalal told Fight Night Picks’ John Hyon Ko. “But I’m happy it put my mental part of the game in a different stage. It taught me a lot.”

Zalal again is expecting a finish to get back in the win column. The 24-year-old (10-4) has seven finishes on his professional resume, but hasn’t recorded one since that victory over Hernandez in 2019.

In Woodson (7-1), Zalal knows the awkward angles the 6-foot-2 fighter will present.

“It’s crazy how long he is for that division,” Zalal said. “It’s very hard to fight those guys. You have to be very smart.”

To prepare, Zalal has sparred with middleweights and light heavyweights at factoryX Muay Thai in Colorado. Some of those sparring sessions happened when Zalal was fasting for Ramadan.

Muslims abstain from food and water during daytime hours during the month of Ramadan, which happened from April 12 to May 12 this year. That didn’t slow down Zalal’s training.

“A month before Ramadan, they confirmed this fight,” Zalal said. “I can’t say no. I had to basically change my whole schedule.”

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