Although Yusuff hasn’t had a chance to show his skills in the Octagon in more than a year, his work ethic is well-documented, and once the gyms opened up in Maryland, he got right back to it. Coincidentally, he was focused on facing southpaws when he got the call to fight Allen, a lefty, leaving Yusuff to feel like the timing was “meant to be.”

As far as his game plan, Yusuff is mostly hush-hush about giving away tactics, but he did say he is looking for the finish. He mentioned that there’s a joke around his gym that he’s been in camp for more than a year while waiting for a bout. Once he got Allen in his sights, he started honing in on a plan for success, and whatever he does have planned has required a weekly rotation of training partners.

“From the things that I’ve been working on, it’s not going to be one of those things where he is really going to dictate anything,” Yusuff said. “The things I’ve been working on, I’m really going to try to lead the dance no matter what happens.”

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The near-15-month wait between fights held adversity and tragedy for Yusuff, but now that fight week is here, his signature smile and laugh are on regular display. Once the fight begins, it’s safe to assume his laser-focused stare will be visible as well. It’s a moment he has anticipated and expected, and he is taking it all in as well. The journey to his first Top 15 fight wasn’t the smoothest of roads, but now that it’s here, he’s locked in on taking advantage of the moment.

“This is life,” Yusuff said. “2020 was a rough year on a lot of people, so I know I’m not alone in that. That’s why I was like, ‘It is what it is.’ We’re here now, and we’re going to make the best of the future.”