UNCASVILLE, Conn. – For 15 months, Adil Benjilany woke up each day and visualized his return to the cage.
In 2020, Benjilany (6-3 MMA, 2-2 BMMA) was part of a large roster purge by Bellator that left him jobless. Despite the trying situation, Benjilany elected to continue training with the hopes of a rebuild. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Benjilany struggled to find fights, but he never gave up hope.
“I’ve hit rock bottom, and when you hit rock bottom, there’s no other way to go but up,” Benjilany told MMA Junkie at a Bellator 262 post-fight news conference Friday. “A lot of people gave up on me. They give you these looks like you’re done. ‘You used to be an MMA fighter, but now (you’re) not.’”
Earlier this year, Benjilany caught the break he’d been hoping for. Bellator needed a featherweight – and the promotion offered Benjilany a spot on Bellator 262 against Johnny Soto. On Friday’s prelims, Benjilany defeated Soto via unanimous decision. After the fight, Benilany thanked those who sacrificed and allowed him to rebound.
“I feel bad for my family, especially my wife … and my brother and my family,” Benjilany said. “I’ve been holding my family back. I couldn’t move to the next level (or) take my family to the next level because of my dream. I have a dream. My wife, she believes in me and she supports me. Our life (was on) hold for 15 months. We weren’t doing (anything). We didn’t buy a house. We didn’t have kids. Nothing, because (of me). I barely see her. I see her once a week, believe it or not. We have a date night on Saturday. Because I wake up the morning, go to work, and I come back and go two to three times a day to the gym. I never see her, so I want to thank her and tell her I love her so much.”
As for what’s next, Benjilany is determined to continue his climb toward title contention. By the end of 2022, Benjilany expects to be in the title conversation.
“I’m still working my way up and I’m not going to give up on my goals,” Benjilany said. “I’m telling you. If you hit rock bottom, nobody is going to come rescue you but yourself. I did that. I’m so proud of myself.”
Bellator 262 took place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The main card aired on Showtime after prelims on MMA Junkie. To see the full interview with Benjilany, check out the video above.