The competitive nature of divisions under the UFC banner rise and fall, but the 170-pound weight class never falters. Even in 2012, with long-reigning champion Georges St-Pierre on the sidelines with injury, a pack of hungry competitors battled for their place in the divisional hierarchy, and this kept the action flowing in the welterweight ranks.
On the current landscape of the UFC, there is no collection of fighters on hotter streaks that the upper-tier of the 170-pound division, and Tarec Saffiedine is ready to get in on the action.
"Oh man, I can't wait," Saffiedine told Bleacher Report. "First of all, being part of the UFC is unbelievable. I came from Belgium where MMA is not famous. You cannot make a living off your passion if you are a mixed martial artist. Coming here, I'm able to make a living off what I love to do, and it's unreal. Being part of the UFC and the 170-pound division—all those guys are super-talented and great fighters. There are a lot of different styles everyone brings, and I can't wait to get deep into this division. I look forward to many great fights and putting on a great show for the fans."
"It's been frustrating not being able to fight and train, but it's part of the game. You have to heal up and bounce back right away. I had to keep my mind positive because these things happen. I'm going to get that momentum going again. I'm healthy, and I'm training super-hard for this fight. I can't wait to show the UFC fans what I'm all about. They kind of don't know me just yet or what I'm capable of doing. I'm looking forward to showing them."
The last man to hold the Strikeforce welterweight title is set to make his long-awaited promotional debut against heavy-handed powerhouse Jake Ellenberger when the UFC makes its first showing in Singapore at Fight Night 34 on Jan. 4. When the Belgian striker was originally slated to make his first appearance inside the Octagon back in July at UFC on Fox 8, an injury stunted that progress and pushed "Sponge" to the sidelines.
Now, with a clean bill of health and his eyes on making an immediate impact in a crowded room of potential contenders, the 27-year-old Team Quest product is looking to make a thunderous introduction at the expense of the Nebraska native. He believes it's the perfect matchup to showcase his skills and is excited to represent his new organization in a new market.
"It's really exciting for me," Saffiedine said. "It's a huge opportunity in my career starting in the UFC. I'm thankful for everything, and I'm super-excited. I'm truly honored to be fighting in Singapore. I've fought a few times in Asia. I fought in Thailand and two times in Japan. I love the culture there, and they have a big Muay Thai culture. MMA is big over there as well. It's going to be exciting for me to showcase my skills because the fans are going to understand the stand-up game."
"I can't wait. When I went there, I trained a little bit. I trained with some of the guys from over there and a Muay Thai trainer from Thailand. They really understand the stand-up game, and it's going to be great to fight over there."
In his preparation, the California transplant will once again call on the assistance of friend and training partner Dan Henderson. The MMA legend has been a staple in Saffiedine's training camps since his move to Team Quest and will particularly come in handy this time around, as he will help mimic the style of Ellenberger.
Where there are differences between the two fighters, both rely on a strong wrestling pedigree and knockout power in their hands to get the job done. Saffiedine believes training with "Hendo" for this fight will be a big advantage and will help him make sure he's ready for what "The Juggernaut" brings to the table.
"There are a lot of similarities between them, but Jake is a little bit different," Saffiedine said. "I spar and train with Dan all the time, and he's helping with this fight, as well as all my others before it. Dan has a lot of power in his punches, and while he isn't very technical, he's able to mimic Jake's stand up. It's great to have him in this camp. He's already back in the gym and helping me out. It's great to have him."
While Saffiedine is still somewhat of a relative unknown commodity, the bout with Ellenberger will present a tremendous opportunity for him to make a proper introduction. He's won seven of his last eight showings and found victory in his four most recent outings. This level of success has him on the verge of breaking through into a larger realm of recognition, but it is going to take a win over an established name to jump-start that process.
Until then, Saffiedine will continue to sharpen his skills in the gym and count down the days until he can step into the Octagon and trade leather with one of the division's best. While the fight will occupy his mind on a constant basis, he has a family to help keep him grounded and occupied in the process.
Back in May, Saffiedine posted a video of his two-year-old son throwing kicks into the sofa cushions. The video has registered over 200,000 views on YouTube to date and shows that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree in the Saffiedine family.
"I did an interview recently and was asked about it by him as well," Saffiedine laughed. "I guess I have to put a new one online. He hasn't really learned to kick yet because I had to kind of stop him. He's going to school, and I don't want to have any trouble. But I think I'm going to have to put a new one up. The craziest thing is that I never once showed him anything."
"He just came to the gym and saw me kicking the heavy bag. I guess he's like me—a little sponge—and he learns everything he sees. He saw me hit the bag a couple of times, and the same day we saw him kicking the sofa and were just amazed. We had no idea where that came from, and it was really funny. Another funny thing is that he kicks very well with his right leg, but his left leg isn't as good. That is another way he's just like me [laughs]."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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