Tarec Saffiedine (14-3, MMA) stunned most of the world when he was named the last Strikeforce Welterweight Champion this past Saturday. Saffiedine battered and chipped away at former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nate Marquardt over the course of the five round war. In the end, Tarec had sent Marquardt out limping with a left leg that took brutal punishment from Saffiedine’s leg kicks and claimed the title as a result of a unanimous decision win.
“It’s unreal it’s still a couple days after the fight and I still can’t believe I actually won that fight, so I’m still waking up from that dream,” Saffiedine told MMA Fight Corner.
While the execution of the gameplan would reflect a strategy to take out Marquardt’s lead leg with low kicks, Saffiedine said that the kicks were more so improvised than anything.
“It was part of the gameplan, trying some leg kicks, but it wasn’t the main goal for the gameplan. But in the second or third I saw him not checking the kick, and I saw him hurt a little bit, so my corner kept yelling at me ‘Just keep going on the leg! Be careful of the counters and just keep going on the leg!’ and that’s what I did.”
Saffiedine also relied on switching stances, and quick head movement that disrupted Marquardt’s timing. He explained that he’d started off southpaw to keep away from Nate’s power and switched back to orthodox to score the leg kicks and inflict damage.
“He’s a really tough, tough opponent,” Saffiedine said of Marquardt’s moxy. “I was surprised, but at the same time I wasn’t surprised. He’s a really tough guy and he just kept going and I didn’t want to quit, so props to him definitely.”
The closing of Strikeforce was a bittersweet moment for Saffiedine who’d grown with the promotion since 2010 when he entered as part of the “Strikeforce: Challengers” series. At the time of this interview, the announcement of Saffiedine being added to the UFC roster had not yet been made. Fresh off his fourth consecutive win and one that earned him the welterweight strap, Saffiedine gave some insight on who’d he like to challenge in the UFC.
“There’s a lot of top guys in the UFC in any division, especially in the welterweight division. Off the top of my head I don’t think of any guy in particular. Any top 5 or top 10 opponent is a tough opponent, I’ll fight anybody.
“I want to go inside the UFC as a champion and challenge any top 5 or top 10 fighter in the UFC,” Tarec said.
Constantly striving to improve, Tarec has brought in wrestlers and sports psychologists in his training camps. Knowing the importance of having a well-rounded game in MMA to stay performing at an elite level, Tarec said he’s diligently focused in on developing his wrestling skills. “It’s not something I put aside, it’s one of my weaknesses and I work on it everyday. Even if I get taken down, I’m going to scramble back up.”
It never hurts to want to improve in wrestling and have Dan Henderson as a teammate. Fighting out of Team Quest, Saffiedine had support from his corner and from “Hendo” who shouted as an onlooker from the crowd when he fought Marquardt. Saffiedine credited Henderson for passing on his tutelage to him and much more.
“He’s my mentor, my friend, my coach but he’s definitely my mentor. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without Dan. There’s a lot of people of course, but Dan’s a pretty big, big part of me. I believe with the first time I came from Belgium to the US, he saw something in me and he believed in my hard work, and the way I was training, and the way I was willing to work to prove I that I can be a part of Team Quest, and he gave the a chance to be part of it, and helped me out with getting fights and getting me ready for fights, mentally, physically. He’s just a great guy and he helped me out so much, I couldn’t be more thankful for him.”
Along with Tarec, the UFC announced that Nate Marquardt will also be brought on to the welterweight roster. Several fighters in fact were signed to the promotion including welterweights: Bobby Voelker, Roger Bowling and Jason High.