After false start, Strikeforce champ Tarec Saffiedine anxious to prove UFC worth


tarec-saffiedine-11.jpgAfter turning down an opportunity to face Carlos Condit at this past month’s UFC 158 event, Tarec Saffiedine (14-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) has been chomping at the bit to receive a new assignment. Now that’s he’s got it, “Sponge” couldn’t be happier.

“I feel great,” Saffiedine told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “I finally have my first UFC fight, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.”

Saffiedine, Strikeforce’s final welterweight champion, was offered an opportunity to fill in for an injured Rory MacDonald on a little less than a month’s notice at UFC 158. While a victory would have made for an incredible octagon debut, Saffiedine was nursing an injury and was unable to accept the March bout.

“It’s very frustrating to turn down fights,” Saffiedine said. “I had never done it in the past. I never turned down a fight before.

“When I was in Strikeforce, I was always down to fight anybody as long as I had a proper training camp. This time it was particularly hard for me to say no because it was my first fight in the UFC, and it was fighting Carlos Condit. But it was such short notice, and I was injured, so unfortunately I had to say no.”

Fortunately for Saffiedine, his time on the shelf will not be extended too long. UFC officials recently announced he’ll face veteran Robbie Lawler (20-9 MMA, 5-3 UFC) at this summer’s UFC on FOX 8 event, which takes place July 27 in Seattle.

Saffiedine said he’s long been a fan of “Ruthless” and can’t wait to step in the cage with a man he’s watched compete well before he ever even imagined possibly opposing him.

“He’s a veteran of the sport,” Saffiedine said. “He’s been around for a long time. I used to watch guys like Scott Smith, Nate Marquardt and Robbie Lawler back when I hadn’t even started fighting. Now I’m fighting those guys. It’s funny.

“He’s been around for a long time. He’s exciting to watch. He’s a brawler. It’s going to be an exciting matchup. I can’t wait to start my camp and get ready for that fight.”

On paper, the bout looks primed to deliver a crowd-pleasing standup war. Saffiedine’s technical striking approach has earned him a four-fight win streak while Lawler’s power punches have earned him 17 knockouts in his 20 career wins.

“I’m more of a technical fighter; that’s what I do,” Saffiedine said. “Robbie is dangerous in the brawling aspect, so I’m going to try to keep it technical, but if I need to brawl, I’ll make sure I do it properly.

“I believe I can brawl, also. I brawl with Dan Henderson all the time at the gym, so it’s OK.”

Thus far, incoming Strikeforce fighters have represented the now-shuttered promotion very well. Saffiedine departs the organization as the company’s final welterweight champion after an impressive five-round victory over Marquardt this past January. Still, Saffiedine knows he’s just about starting over as he embarks on his UFC journey.

And while it was a little delayed in getting underway, the 26-year-old Belgian said he’s prepared to achieve greatness in the UFC cage, as well.

“I am the last champion, but I didn’t defend my belt like Gilbert Melendez or Luke Rockhold,” Saffiedine said. “Those guys have defended their titles in Strikeforce, and I didn’t have that chance, unfortunately.

“I believe I come in to the UFC with champion status, but at the same time I have to prove myself to the UFC and the fans. I believe a lot of fans don’t know about me in the UFC yet, so I’m going to have to prove to them what I’m really capable of doing.”

For the latest on UFC on FOX 8, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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