There will be at least one highly interested observer when Carlos Condit and Martin Kampmann step in the cage tomorrow for their UFC Fight Night 27 main event.
Condit and Kampmann are both coming off losses in their previous fights; Condit will actually be attempting to avoid the first three-fight losing streak of his entire career. But those losses don't matter much to former Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine, who on Monday told MMAFighting.com that he's extremely interested in facing the winner.
Saffiedine's reason for taking aim at Condit and Kampmann? He says he thinks a win over them could put him within reach of a UFC title shot:
That’s the goal. I believe if I [beat] one of those guys, it puts me maybe one or two fights away from the title. But obviously, I’m a fighter that doesn’t look past anyone. I take one fight at a time. But my ultimate goal is to fight for the title, that’s the reason I came to the U.S. I came here to fight and beat those names.
That’s my plan, that’s why I left my country, my family and friends. I’m really, really hungry and I can’t wait to come back to training.
This is a shrewd bit of decision-making from Saffiedine. Sure, he was the final Strikeforce welterweight champion, and he captured the belt by leg-kicking UFC veteran Nate Marquardt until I was cringing at home.
But as we've seen in the past, being a former Strikeforce champion doesn't really mean much ever since the promotion was folded into the UFC. There are two notable exceptions, of course; Gilbert Melendez and Ronda Rousey came into the UFC with a fair bit of star power on their side. Melendez was thrust into a title fight with Benson Henderson on his first tour of the Octagon, and Rousey was handed her belt by Dana White at a December press conference in Seattle.
Saffiedine is no Melendez or Rousey, however, and I'm not talking about his fighting skills. He's clearly a talented welterweight. But if you took a poll of 10 casual MMA fans, I'd be shocked if more than three of them know who Saffiedine is. And the hardcore fans who know Saffiedine's history won't exactly be salivating to see him compete against the best welterweights the UFC has to offer during his UFC debut.
That's why this is a smart move for Saffiedine. A win over Condit or Kampmann will mean something for Saffiedine's career. It won't earn him an immediate title shot—he'll need at least two and possibly three convincing UFC wins before he gets the opportunity to face Georges St-Pierre—but it will put him a whole lot closer than he is right now.