Strikeforce’s 2012 campaign officially begins this Saturday night, and Tarec Saffiedine starts his run to the top of the welterweight division.
Saffiedine (11-3 MMA, 4-1 SF) kicks off the Showtime televised main card against Tyler Stinson (22-7 MMA, 1-0 SF) from The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
With former champion Nick Diaz making the move to the UFC, the organization’s welterweight title picture is uncertain, but one thing that’s not is the fact that Saffiedine is making a run for championship gold in 2012.
“I’m not hiding the fact that I’d love to fight for the title one day,” Saffiedine recently told BleacherReport.com.
“It’s always in the back of my mind that this is my goal to get closer and closer to the title. So, I think a win Tyler Stinson is definitely a big step towards that direction. I’m looking really forward to it, and it really motivates me for this fight because I know it gets me closer. It’s always fun fighting for Strikeforce, and I’m happy with them.”
A win over Stinson, who went undefeated in 2011, would certainly place the Team Quest-trained fighter near the top of the division. While his opponent presents challenges, Saffiedine’s confident he’s taken the necessary steps in preparation for Saturday’s main card action.
“He’s a tough opponent, Tyler is pretty tall, he’s lefty with a heavy left hand,” Saffiedine said.
“He’s not the most technical striker I would say, but he’s pretty aggressive and he has a heavy left hand. The ground game, he’s okay, and wrestling he’s okay also, and as far as what I watched on my computer from his previous fights, that’s pretty much what I saw and put a pretty good training camp together.”
Prior to his upcoming bout with Stinson, Saffiedine outclassed UFC and Strikeforce veteran Scott Smith this past year en route to a dominant decision victory.
In the six months between Smith and Stinson, Saffiedine spent time honing his skillset under the tutelage of long-time coach Gustavo Pugliese and the gentlemen at Team Quest in California.
”For each and every fight, I always train as much in one aspect as the other in the gym,” Saffiedine said.
“I would say that I train a lot in my boxing with Gustavo and muay-thai also; I always try to keep my technique. I don’t want to just switch because I’m a striker to just wrestling for a long time. I always try to improve what I have and I have a great wrestling coach, and I’m always trying to improve that. Also, in my off time, I do a lot of jiu-jitsu tournaments, so I always try to compete as much as I can.”
If Saffiedine’s able to hand Stinson his first loss in more than 12 months, the 25-year-old may very well be primed for his most successful year to date as a professional fighter.
Working alongside the young welterweight is UFC light heavyweight contender and legend of the sport Dan Henderson, who, according to Saffiedine, has been a “perfect fit” for his promising career.
“It’s amazing. I was in Belgium first and I was training mostly in my striking, and in Belgium, we don’t wrestling, so when I came to the U.S. to Team Quest, it was definitely the perfect fit for me as far as wrestling. I didn’t go to a camp that was average in wrestling; I went to a camp with Dan and Olympic wrestling.
“Also, Dan, as you know, is a legend in the sport, so it’s definitely something good for me and helping me out a lot because I learn pretty quick with wrestling. Training is great and unbelievable, but it’s also really challenging because you got a 41-year-old kicking your butt at every practice, so you have to keep up. He’s a great guy in the gym, outside the gym and it’s been really great for my career.”
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