Abdullah Al-Qahtani, the 24-year-old Saudi fighter known as “The Reaper,” has predicted another win ahead of his clash with American David Zelner in the featherweight category at the Professional Fighters League playoff on Aug. 23 at Madison Square Garden, New York.
Al-Qahtani, who trains at Riyadh Combat Club, signed a three-year contract with PFL that guarantees him a minimum of two fights a year.
After a successful PFL debut defeating American Lamar Brown in Atlanta via a first-round submission in June, the fighter forsees another hostile takedown next week.
“It was the first time that I finished an opponent in the first round, it was crazy. I thought I would finish it with a knockout or by my striking skills, but I didn’t think it would be on the ground,” Al-Qahtani said.
“I felt that I was better than him in striking, so I thought I would knock him out but when it went to grappling, I finished him there. Although I am strong in both, I prefer striking.”
The Saudi started out in wrestling, but his transition into Muay Thai made him favor the striking game.
Al-Qahtani would not reveal what surprises he has in store for David Zelner — who makes his PFL debut with a record of 4-2-0 — but predicts both his striking game and grappling will end the match early.
“He is good, he will be hard, and he is aggressive. He will try to engage in striking, but I have good defense now, something I have been working on. I predict that I will take him down in the first round or the first of the second,” Al-Qahtani said.
“David’s right hook is quite strong, and so is his takedown game, he is also skilled in jiu-jitsu. He is a purple belt like me but the way I train jiu-jitsu is harder than he does so it should be a good fight.
“My camp has been good, we arranged some sparring partners to come to Riyadh for this camp and I am feeling confident,” he said.
As one of only a handful of MMA fighters from the Kingdom, Al-Qahtani is honored to be carrying the Saudi flag onto a stage such as Madison Square Garden and in front of a large PFL audience.
“I am grateful for the opportunities PFL is providing me, but also how they look out for me as a fighter. The ability to fight outside of PFL while under contract is really important to me as I want to say active.”
PFL is second only to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, with fighters from more than 20 countries. The Saudi’s contract with PFL is non-exclusive and puts fighters first, allowing him to participate in other events.
Should PFL schedule another fight for Al-Qahtani before the end of the year, he says that he will start preparing for it. Otherwise, he plans to participate at the Muay Thai competition at World Combat Games in Riyadh from Oct. 20-30.
“It is important for me to stay active, fighting every three months would be the ideal scenario for me, although I am not ranked in the league yet — PFL provides me great exposure but also doesn’t restrict me from taking other opportunities that may arise.”