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Youssef Zalal ecstatic over submission win in UFC return: 'I am one of the best in the world'

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LAS VEGAS – You don’t often see it, but Youssef Zalal is one of the few fighters that was able to work his way back in the UFC and return successfully.

After being cut from the promotion in 2022, Zalal (14-5-1 MMA, 4-3-1 UFC) returned to the octagon this Saturday on the main card of UFC on ESPN 53 at the UFC Apex. And after going on a three-fight wining streak outside the UFC, Zalal put on a clinic against Billy Quarantillo and submitted him in the second round of their featherweight contest.

It was a big moment for Zalal, as he feels he proved to himself he belongs in the best MMA organization.

“I feel like this is just to prove to myself that I am one of the best in the world,” Zalal said at the UFC on ESPN 53 post-fight press conference. “For me, this is a whole different experience. I feel like we go in life in little bits of experience, and you always remember, ‘Man, I remember this. I remember when my kid was born.’ I think this is one of them.

“This is an experience I get to tell people about. ‘Man, everybody doubted you. You will never make it again,’ and then to come back and finish a guy that’s never been finished by submission. It feels really good.”

Zalal first joined the UFC in 2020 and had a start of 3-0 before losing three consecutive bouts and then tying another. It was that four-fight winless run that triggered his exit from the UFC. Those four fights were also in just 10 months.

Moving forward, Zalal wants to pump the brakes on his activity in the octagon and be a little smarter with his career management.

“Last time I was in the UFC, I fought five times in one year, so I’m going to slow my ass down a little bit and really take my time with it,” Zalal said. “I’m going to talk to my management and see what I need to do, but I just made the No. 19 look easy, and he had just fought the No. 14, so I don’t know if (Edson) Barboza is still 14. So whoever they give me, I really don’t care. I know I’ve got a great management team, and they’re going to upscale my career.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 53.

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