Youssef Zalal sees ‘problem’ Ilia Topuria beating Max Holloway

Youssef Zalal knows how good UFC featherweight champion Ilia Topuria is.

Zalal (14-5-1 MMA, 4-3-1 UFC) welcomed Topuria (15-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) to the UFC in October 2020, when his original opponent Seung Woo Choi was forced to withdraw. Zalal was able to take Topuria the distance, but was ultimately outgrappled in a unanimous decision loss. The setback snapped his four-fight winning streak.

However, Zalal’s loss aged well. Topuria went onto notch five straight wins before knocking out Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 298 to claim the featherweight title. Topuria is expected to make his first title defense against Max Holloway (26-7 MMA, 22-7 UFC), who’s confidence is sky high after an iconic knockout of Justin Gaethje at UFC 300.

Despite Holloway’s momentum, Zalal sees Topuria retaining his title.

“I just got asked this yesterday. I love Max Holloway and I think they said Max Holloway vs. Ilia – I think Ilia’s going to be a problem,” Zalal told MMA Junkie Radio. “I see him being still the champ next year, 100 percent.”

Zalal’s loss to Topuria was followed by two more losses then a majority draw, which lead to his UFC departure. However three-straight finishes on the regional scene got him the call back to the octagon. He submitted Billy Quarantillo in March, and is now booked to face Jarno Errens Aug. 10 at UFC Fight Night 242.

So what clicked for 27-year-old Zalal in his career turnaround?

“A lot of things, but mostly is the experience and doing what I love,” Zalal said. “I feel like sometimes we go into life and we don’t appreciate the things that we do, and I’m very bad at that sometimes. I feel like I’m not patient. I want everything. I want to do this, I want to do that. That’s why in my early UFC career, I was fighting all the time, nonstop.

“For me, there was no patience. Taking risks that you’re not even – like why do you even need to take that risk? Obviously, it’s who I am, just really focusing on enjoying life and really being in the moment and experiencing that journey. That’s the one thing that clicked for me and changed is I know what I love to do, and I know what I want to do.”

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie