Article

Tarec Saffiedine: The Wait Is Finally Over

"I know Lim is going to bring the fight and come to fight, so that’s how I’m coming too." - Tarec Saffiedine
UFC welterweight Tarec SaffiedineIs the glass half-full or half-empty?

A person with a pessimistic outlook would suggest that having nearly a year between a breakthrough performance and the follow-up effort is a bad thing – that the momentum built by four consecutive wins capped by a championship victory was lost as a result of injuries and overcrowding, putting 357 days between trips into the cage.

The optimist, however, would maintain that a dominant performance in a championship fight never loses its value, and that while extended absences are never ideal, the landscape of the welterweight division has shifted to the point where now is the perfect time for someone new to walk in and make an impact.

At this point, Tarec Saffiedine is just happy to have a glass in front of him.

Half Empty

Last year couldn’t have started out any better for the 27-year-old talent. Headlining the final Strikeforce event, Saffiedine picked apart Nate Marquardt with precision kickboxing to win the welterweight title, extending his winning streak to four and pushing his record to 14-3 in the process.

Following Marquardt’s blistering debut, where he claimed the vacant belt by finishing Tyron Woodley, Saffiedine’s ability to entirely shut down the former UFC middleweight title challenger’s offense and connect at will opened a number of eyes, and had many waiting for the man known as “Sponge” to transition into the UFC’s deep and talented 170-pound ranks. > Watch: Saffiedine Vlog

But a hectic schedule and pre-established pairings pushed the Team Quest member’s debut back to July, where a showdown with fellow Strikeforce alum Robbie Lawler was supposed to place on FOX before Saffiedine was forced out of the bout with an undisclosed injury. Rumors of a pairing with surging contender Matt Brown floated through the MMA media late in the summer, but never came together, leading to the lineal Strikeforce welterweight champion being matched up with perennial contender Jake Ellenberger in the main event of the inaugural UFC show in Singapore.

Late last month, Ellenberger was sidelined and pulled from the contest, resulting in South Korean Hyun Gyu Lim being elevated to take his place. Despite the shift in opponent, Saffiedine is still champing at the bit to put the past year behind him and introduce himself to the UFC audience.

“It started pretty good with my win over Nate,” says the Belgian kickboxer of his past 12 months. “It was definitely a big accomplishment in my career. I went back to training until I was scheduled to fight Robbie Lawler (but) I got injured and had to take some time off unfortunately. At the time it was pretty frustrating, but at the same time, I wasn’t sitting home eating pizza and feeling sorry for myself – I tried to stay strong and I knew I was going to come back a better fighter, mentally and physically. I tried to do everything the right way to come back, and now I guess everything happens for a reason.

“I was a little bit disappointed not fighting Jake – I was really looking forward to facing somebody like Jake; he’s a Top 5 fighter – but Lim is a really dangerous fighter and I cannot underestimate him.”

Half Full

Even though countless fighters that have matriculated to the UFC from organizations like Strikeforce and the WEC have already proven themselves inside the Octagon, fans and critics often still want to see how an athlete performs on the biggest stage in the sport before they’re willing to back them fully, regardless of how successful they were elsewhere. > Free Fight: Saffiedine vs. Moore

While his win over Marquardt and proposed matchups with Lawler and Ellenberger should paint a clear picture of where the UFC newcomer stands within the talented mix that makes up the welterweight division, the only way to solidify that positioning is to step in the cage and earn another victory, and that is exactly what Saffiedine intends to do on Saturday.

“I believe the fact that I beat Nate decisively in my last fight sent a message to the UFC and all the fighters in the division. When I fought Nate, it was more important for me to win than to actually win the title because I wanted to prove to everyone that I belong with that kind of competition – that I can beat guys like Nate Marquardt, who was a Top 10 fighter at that time. That was the message I wanted to send, and fighting guys like Robbie or Jake (was something I was really looking forward to).

“Obviously UFC fans haven’t seen me fight yet, but people that have watched me and new fans that are going to be discovering me can expect a better fighter than I was before. I’m a better version of myself after my time out. I’m looking to put on a great performance for my first UFC fight – an exciting fight. I’m going to try to finish the fight, and if it goes the distance, I’m going to put on a good five rounds.”

Keep Climbing

With the divisional picture currently blurred by Georges St-Pierre’s decision to vacate the welterweight title and go on sabbatical, the opportunity is there for Saffiedine to quickly climb the rankings and put himself into contention. > Watch: UFC Singapore Weigh-In

Coupled with a year’s worth of pent up energy and the adrenaline that comes with stepping into the Octagon for the first time, there is the risk of being too amped up and deviating from the patient, measured approach that has made him so successful in the past.

“I guess we’re going to find out on January 4,” Saffiedine laughs, acknowledging his eagerness to finally fight in the UFC and the potential for pressing too hard right out of the gate. “I’m definitelySaffiedine takes down Marquardt really excited to come back and fight. People that are used to watching me fight, they know how I fight – how composed I can be, how aggressive I can be if I need to, and how I can take a step back in the fight as well, and I think this will be a mix of all of those things together.

“I’m going to be really anxious to come back and prove (myself), but I have to be smart also – Lim is a dangerous opponent, and I cannot rush things.

“He’s a tall fighter, more of a striker,” he adds, “and he kind of opens up himself, which makes the fight a little risky because he doesn’t mind getting punched in the face. He likes to go to war, and he has dangerous knockout power.

“I know Lim is going to bring the fight and come to fight, so that’s how I’m coming too.”

This event will air on UFC Fight Pass on Saturday, January 4. Start your free trial now at ufc.tv/fightpass


Watch Past Fights

미디어

최근
UFC 해설자 조 로건이 UFN 라스베이거스 대회 메인이벤트 토마스 알메이다-코디 가브런트 5라운드 대결에 대해 살펴본다. 대회는 폭스스포츠 1 채널을 통해 무료로 중계되며, 라스베이거스 만달레이 이벤트 센터에서 열린다.
2016. 5. 26
UFC 밴텀급 토마스 알메이다는 무패 전적을 유지하며 체급 랭킹 10위권으로 진입하기 위해 수없이 많은 땀을 흘렸다. 알메이다는 이제 UFN 라스베이거스 대회에서 코디 가브런트를 맞이하며 정상을 향한 여정을 계속한다.
2016. 5. 26
토마스 알메이다가 UFC 특파원 아만다 살바토의 인터뷰에 한다. 알메이다와 살바토는 함께 경주차량에 탑승해 직접 차량을 몰아본다. 현재 무패행진 중인 알메이다가 노리는 것은 이번 일요일 코디 가브런트를 꺾고 21승 무패 전적을 기록하는 것이다.
2016. 5. 26
동부 오후 9시 서부 오후 6시 UFN 라스베이거스 대회가 막을 올린다. 코디 가브런트 vs. 토마스 알메이다 대결이 메인이벤트다. 헤난 바라오-제레미 스티븐스 대결을 비롯해 다양한 경기가 준비되어 있다.
2016. 5. 26