Tarec Saffiedine Ready for Strikeforce Champ Nate Marquardt: “I Want That Belt”, “Next Step Would Be The UFC”
By Kelsey Mowatt
Although Strikeforce’s final event won’t go down until this Saturday on January 12th, many throughout the MMA world are already looking forward to the UFC return of Nate Marquardt, and the possibility of a future bout with teammate Georges St. Pierre. While the speculation regarding a future fight between two welterweight champions is understandable, Tarec Saffiedine is hoping to be the Strikeforce champ who joins the UFC.
“That would be amazing you know?” Saffiedine recently said on Full Contact Fighter Radio, while discussing Saturday’s title fight with Marquardt, and the possibility that he could be the last Strikeforce welterweight champion. “It’s always been my goal to be a champion; to actually be the first Belgian champion. I’m from Belgium, and I’ve been the first fighter from Belgium to win in Japan, fight in America in a major organization and win.”
“I set up my goals to be the first Belgian champion for Strikeforce and hopefully later on, be the first Belgian fighter to be in the UFC,” the 26 year-old added. “That’s my motivation for this fight and what the future holds.”
Of course if Saffiedine wins Saturday night, one can safely assume that ZUFFA would work to bring the last Strikeforce welterweight champ over to the UFC. Considering that the UFC has already signed other vets like Bobby Voelker, Caros Fodor and Tyron Woodley amongst several others, however, Strikeforce’s number one contender is likely headed to the Octagon regardless.
“It is one of my goals so hopefully, but of course I don’t think about losing Saturday,” said, Saffiedine (13-3), who has scored consecutive decision wins over Scott Smith, Tyler Stinson and most recently Roger Bowling to earn a title shot. “I want that belt, to win that belt, and the next step would be the UFC definitely.”
While Marquardt’s friendship and training experience with St. Pierre are driving factors behind the “will they fight” narrative, another reason why many are looking past this Saturday is because Saffiedine is the consensus underdog. Although the Team Quest fighter has gone 5-1 with Strikeforce and is 8-2 in his last 10, Marquardt is a former number one middleweight contender in the UFC and is coming off an impressive KO win over Woodley.
“Of course he’s the champion so I’m not going to be, I don’t know what’s the opposite of underdog, but of course I’m going to come into this fight as the underdog,” Saffiedine conceded. “I’m really cool with that; I don’t mind.”
“Maybe that’s one of the reasons that I’m really relaxed and I’m just enjoying the moment,” Saffiedine furthered.
In recent years, the 33 year-old Marquardt (32-10-2) has showcased an improving and dangerous striking game to go along with his well documented grappling and BJJ black belt. Saffiedine, on the other hand, has been working diligently to develop his wrestling skills and takedown defense, so that he can make the most of his highly regarded kickboxing abilities.
“He’s pretty explosive on his feet and he’s well rounded,” Saffiedine noted about the welterweight champion. “He has pretty good wrestling and he’s not bad on the ground, so, I believe he’s well rounded as I am you know. I trained all areas for this camp. I trained as much in the stand-up, as much in the wrestling and the ground, so I’ll be comfortable wherever the fight goes.”
“That might be one of his options,” Saffiedine added, when asked if he suspects Marquardt may look to take him down. “I’ve been striking through the most of my last few fights and he might want to try to do that…clinch with me and try to take me down. But I train very hard and I’m ready for each and every situation.”
The January 12th Strikeforce will be hosted by the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City and will be broadcast on Showtime.