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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Mike Bohn and Ken Hathaway

Short-notice UFC newcomer Bassil Hafez plots upset of Jake Della Maddalena: ‘Doubt all you want’

LAS VEGAS – Bassil Hafez thinks he’s going to surprise a lot of people in his short-notice debut against Jack Della Maddalena at UFC on ESPN 49.

Hafez (8-3-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) accepted a fight with surging welterweight contender Della Maddalena (14-2 MMA, 4-0 UFC) on just five days’ notice after the Australian had multiple fights fall through last week at UFC 290.

He’s a heavy betting favorite, but he warns the world to count him out at its own peril.

“I know that a lot of people might doubt me, but doubt all you want,” Hafez told MMA Junkie and other reporters at Wednesday’s UFC on ESPN 49 media day. “I’m showing up on. short notice, I’m putting on a fight and I’m going to stake my claim in the UFC.”

Hafez faces Della Maddalena in a three-round welterweight bout at the UFC Apex. The card airs on ESPN and streams on ESPN+.

The 31-year-old who has been fighting professionally since January 2016 admits he would’ve preferred a full training camp for this moment, but knows opportunities like this can’t be declined. He has studied Della Maddalena’s game during the time available, and is confident he can overcome expectations.

“I’m a hard-working fighter, a gritty fighter,” Hafez said. “I always try to put on a show for the fans and I always try to get the finish, and not get finished. I take pride in that, that I’ve never been finished. My goal is to fight Jack and beat Jake this Saturday, and prove that I deserve to be here. And to not get finished. I know he’s finished his last four opponents in the first round – I believe I’m going to be the toughest opponent he’s fought yet.”

No matter the circumstances, it’s a big moment and a big stage for Hafez, and he’s doing his best to embrace it.

“I texted my manger right away saying I would take that fight in a heartbeat (at UFC 290),” Hafez said. “Then they tried to get it, but his team ended up picking Josiah Harrell. Then the issue happened with the MRI and I got the call Monday through my manager Jason House at Iridium, and (it was) tears of joy. It was a shock, but also super excited.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 49.

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