Tarec « Sponge » Saffiedine Interview

Hey everyone,

Once again, I know the blog is supposed to be written in French, but I feel like it’d be a good thing to translate this interview in English, since a lot of people asked me to do so.

For this second interview, I asked Belgium Tarec Saffiedine some questions. As you may have read in my first interview, he trained at Ringside gym when he started. He’s now a professional mix martial artists, the most-known belgian in the sport; he’s at the moment fighting under Strikeforce banner. 

Hey Tarec, thanks for allowing me to ask you some questions. As usual, I’m starting with a classic; why did you start training martial arts ?

At school, I was the weakest in my group and I wanted to become stronger for several reasons, like to be able to defend myself. Also, I was fan of Mangas, I used to read « TOUGH », telling the story of a young kid who trained MMA, I wanted to do what this kid does. Some friends of mine were going to boxing classes after school and were also Shihaishinkai practitionners. I gave this karate a shot and since then, I couldn’t stop. Each day after school, I was going to the gym. I got my Shihaishinkai black belt, this karate is the most complete martial art I know and is the most similar to MMA, which is the reason why I started being a mix martial artist full time.

You started your career in Belgium, obviously. Now you’re living in the US and meanwhile you fought in Japan. Can you go deeper about your run ?

I started my amateur career in Belgium, but I travelled a lot in Europe to compete. In 2005 & 2006, I’ve been to Thailand so that I could train and fight for a few months. At that moment, I realized that I wanted to do MMA for a living, and that I needed to leave my home country to reach my goal, especially because wrestling is essential in MMA and this aspect is like the weakest in West-Europe. In 2007, I had my first pro fights in Belgium and I told to myself that if I wanted to succeed in my career, I had to leave for the US. That was my best option. At the end of 2007, I joined Team Quest for the very first time, but I came back one month later. Afterwards, I had only one thing in mind: go back there and train, but unfortunately, I broke my hand and my wish was delayed.

Finally, in 2008, I could start off again for 6 months and in 2009, I got my VISA to settle down with my wife. Since then, I fought for DREAM in Japan, which was a… dream come true. Plus, it has opened the doors to Strikeforce.

You took risks. At what moment did you know you  were going to reach your goal ? Have you ever had doubts ?

I’d put it differently: I made choices, I didn’t quit a job or studies to leave. But my wife did. So I’d say that she’s the one who took risks. I make a living doing what I love, there’s nothing better than that, even if it’s hard to be far from your close friends, your family. Nevertheless, I have no regret !

I realized I wanted to do it mainly because of the travels. To do so, you have to leave your comfort zone and make all efforts you can, otherwise you never know what could happen, if you could succeed.

I doubt everyday but it’s a normal feeling, it’s an unstable lifestyle. But that’s the way I live since I’m 16 so I’m used to it; I like not knowing what tomorrow brings us.

Do you have pieces of advice, or warnings to give to those that considers a similar run ?

I think that, if one wants to try such an adventure, you’d better be sure where you are going because it’s your future. Make use of all the resources you have where you are before going anywhere else, and don’t leave if you don’t feel good enough. Anyone is capable of doing what I’ve accomplished, you just have to go for it, to believe in yourself and to work hard.

A lot of people support me and tell me they want to do what I do. I encourage them because it’s an adventure I want to share with everybody, and I’m ready to help anybody that want to train here, so, do not hesitate to contact me.

What are the main differences between the training in Belgium and in the US ?

Since I’m here, I noticed there are 3 things that change a lot: the timeframe, the level and the money, and there are all linked. Because fighters are well-paid here, they are able to live easily without having a job. They can therefore spend more time training and improve their skills. The gyms can affort the best coaches who are available all day long.

Also, as I told earlier, I do believe wrestling is essential in MMA. The US, with Russia, are the best countries in the world in that domain. Belgium, Holland, France, England have, in my opinion, the best stand-up gyms, but the wrestling is a key element that those countries haven’t.

I suppose you follow the MMA world, is there a fighter that you admire ?

Yes, I know what’s going on, but not much more. I do like GSP (ed.: Canada Georges St-Pierre), he trained a karate close to mine and could adapt his style to MMA. Moreover, his wrestling is amazing with his ground game. There’s no one more complete than him, I think.

What are your best moment, and your worst, as a fighter ?

I had a lot of good moments. My recent win over Scott Smith (Ed: United States Scott Smith is a former WEC light heavyweight champ, a former Elite XC middleweight champ and fought 4 times in the l’UFC) is a great moment because he was a fighter I watched when he was in the UFC. I’m glad to have fought against him, and the fact that I won was, of course, even better ! (Ed.: Tarec dominated Scott, winning by Unanimous Decision with 30-27, 30-27, 30-26 in the judges’ scorecards).

One of my worst moment is probably my loss against Dong Sik Yoon. That was a hard blow, but it made me realize a lot of things, concerning my preparation for a fight.

You’re now under contract with Strikeforce and you’re next fight isn’t announced yet. Is there any fighter you’d like to face off ? What’s your goal in Strikeforce ?

I’d like to fight Tyron Woodley again (Ed.: the unbeaten United States Tyron Woodley won against Tarec via UD, mainly because of his great wrestling pedigree) for the title but I’m not making the decision. I never chosed an opponent, and it’s Strikeforce that decides. I’d like, of course, to be the champion and I think I’m a fight away from it !

We all wish this is true ! Zuffa bought Strikeforce, and is therefore linked to the UFC. The transition between those organisations is easier, we noticed it with United States Nick Diaz, Netherlands Alistair Overeem and your training partner United States Dan Henderson. Do you think about it ?

I’d be happy to fight for the UFC, someday, all fighters have that dream. But for now, I stay focused on Strikeforce because I deeply know I can be the champion !

Dan, who you hang up with, is going to fight for the UFC light heavyweight belt against the unstoppable United States Jon Jones. I suppose you believe in Hendo’s victory, what do you think will be the key points in that fight ?

I think Dan has his shot if he shows up ready with a good gameplan. You need to close the distance with Jones and throw a Dan’s right hand (Ed: known as H-Bomb) without showing it. Dan is a though fight for anyone, for any type of fighter. Whoever is in front of him, if he lands his right hand, the other will be in a very bad spot. He learned to throw it without letting the opponent see it coming. He’s really motivated for this fight and I think that he wants that belt more than anything before hanging up the gloves.

That was my last question, thanks a lot for your time. If you want to add something, go ahead !

I’d like to thank everyone supporting me, my family and my team. If you’d like to come and train here, don’t hesitate to contact me, everyone’s welcome. Thank you again.

Thank you for reading, I hope you all support him as much as I do, he needs it, and we need it !

Tarec Saffiedine & Chris

Catégories :Portrait

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