Zatout aims for epic career swansong in Qatar's Lusail

Zatout aims for epic career swansong in Qatar's Lusail

Muay Thai fighter Mehdi Zatout, centre.
Muay Thai fighter Mehdi Zatout, centre.

Thailand-based Muay Thai star Mehdi Zatout returns from retirement this Friday for a dream fight in boxing.

"Diamond Heart" will compete for the first time since 2022 when he faces undefeated Saudi Arabian boxer Zuhayr Al-Qahtani at the landmark ONE 166: Qatar event on March 1. The card marks ONE Championship's on-ground debut in Qatar and its first event in the Middle East since 2014.

Despite carving out a storied career in Muay Thai and kickboxing, the boxing element of the sport has always been important to Zatout, who has sparred some of the top boxers in Europe through the years.

The 40-year-old says that it feels fitting that it all comes full circle at Lusail Sports Arena in Qatar.

"I retired because I had problems with my knees, and there was so much work. I'd just had enough. I decided to come back because I like the challenge," he said.

"I was actually sad when I made my decision to retire because I really wanted to fulfil my dream of competing in boxing at least once in my career.

"A lot of people close to me know that I love boxing. I've always trained in boxing. Before when I sparred with the biggest names in Europe, I'd always focused on the boxing aspect. That's why I'm good at boxing."

Zatout now makes his living at the talent laden Venum Training Camp in Pattaya, Thailand, where he passes on the fighting skills he has honed since age 10. The gym is home to current superstars such as ONE interim women's strawweight kickboxing world champion Phetjeeja, former ONE lightweight Muay Thai world title challenger Sinsamut Klinmee, and rising star Nabil Anane.

But the opportunity to cap his career with a dream boxing bout in front of adoring fans in the Middle East was too good to refuse for the Algerian, who intends to add another statement win to his career that already includes 79 victories in Muay Thai and kickboxing and a WBC Muay Thai world title to boot.

To do it at a landmark event for the promotion that he has called home since 2018 will simply be icing on the cake.

"To me, it's amazing. When they announced it, I immediately informed my fighters [at Venum Training Camp] about it. But I never thought that I would be the one competing," he said.

"It's crazy that ONE will be in Qatar. To be part of ONE 166 is a dream for me. Knowing it's an Arabic country, it's also special for me.

"I'm happy that Chatri [Sityodtong] and ONE offered me the fight. Despite retiring, I've kept myself in shape and continued to spar with all of my fighters on the team. So, why not?"

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