After the Unified MMA 33 cancellation back in 2017, it seemed as if Michael Hay and Noah Ali may never cross paths again.
But on Friday night, Stony Plain’s Hay (5-2) and Calgary’s Ali (9-5-1) will indeed meet in a bantamweight clash at Unified MMA 39 in Edmonton, Alta. after their originally scheduled bout was part of the cancelled Unified MMA 33 card.
Having known of Ali and having watched him fight on multiple occasions, Hay, 26, said Ali is someone he’s always wanted to share the cage with since he began his professional career.
“It’s definitely a fight I’ve always wanted. Noah had already been fighting professional when I started, so I’d definitely seen him fight at the beginning of my career,” said Hay in an interview with MMA Empire.
“I always thought this was someone I’m going to get matched up with, and when his name came up, I was happy and glad it got matched up again. I’m looking forward to it.”
Ali, 34, enters this contest coming off two straight losses against Bendy Casimir and Jesse Brock, with the Casimir matchup being his most recent outing over two years ago.
Ali said he has a plan for where he wants his career to be now that he’s back to competition, and it all starts Friday night with Hay.
“I know Jamie Siraj and Chad Anheliger are kind of next in line for the big show, so I’m kind of looking at this as an opportunity. If I beat Hay, then fight Siraj and beat him, I feel like I’m right back in it,” said Ali in an interview with MMA Empire.
“That’s my goal now; beat Hay, and then fight Siraj for the title. Then, once I beat his ass, I guess I’m the top dog.”
Hay’s last time in the cage was at Unified MMA 35, where he fell to Siraj via TKO in the fifth round in their bantamweight title bout.
Although the fight result didn’t go his way, Hay said plenty of positives were taken from the fight. Having not been out of the first round prior to the Siraj fight, Hay said it provided him with some much-needed cage time and a wealth of experience.
“I’ve had a lot of really quick fights that built me up the ranks, but I wasn’t getting a lot of cage time in those events,” said Hay.
“The fight with Siraj, it was nice to have a long fight, even though it didn’t go my way. I had a lot of time in there to get more comfortable. The overall experience being in there and getting that extra time was really beneficial.”
The title bout with Siraj was Hay’s first of his young career.
And although he would certainly like another crack at a belt one day, Hay said this fight isn’t so much about working his way back to a title shot as it is showing how much he’s improved.
“The title’s not a huge deal for me right now. I’m more interested in going out there and showing a better version of myself, regardless of title implications,” said Hay.
“I just want to show a truer version of myself than I showed in my last fight.”
A lot has changed for Ali since he last stepped in the cage over two years ago, a change that has him entering Friday’s contest with a new, refreshed mindset.
He said his lifestyle has changed significantly since his last fight and believes it puts him in a better spot, mentally, for competition.
“I sell cars for a career now, but before, when all I did was teach or train, whenever I would fight it was just so serious to me and I found I was being way too tentative,” said Ali.
“Now that I have a different career, I’m really looking forward to this fight to just go in there, have fun and give it all I have. It’s no longer my full career; I’m just doing it for fun, so it went from being super serious to now where I’m just going away for the weekend and get to go and beat someone up and just have a blast.”
Ali has proven to be a well-rounded fighter throughout his 15-fight career, holding one knockout win, five submission wins and three decision wins.
And while he does acknowledge the threat Hay poses in the grappling department, Ali said he believes he’s better than Hay in every aspect.
“If there’s anything we’re close in, it’s the grappling. But I know my wrestling’s better, my striking’s more powerful, and I know our grappling’s close,” said Ali.
“I know I’m a brown belt and he’s a black belt, but it’s a lot different when you can punch them in the face.”
“I’d like to give a shoutout to my buddy Will Monzon for always helping me out in life and martial arts, my work South Pointe Toyota for giving me time off, all my training partners and coaches at Cardinal MMA and 101 Academy, and Tim Blanchard at Alavanca YYC.” Follow Ali on social media: FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM