Proudly Belgian: Tarec Saffiedine talks ring rust and opponent change ahead of UFC Fight Night 34

Photo by Anton Tabuena

In an interview with BloodyElbow.com, the last Strikeforce champion in Tarec Saffiedine talks about his goal of being the first Belgian fighter to step foot and win in the UFC, ring rust, and the sudden change in opponents.

Tarec Saffiedine thoroughly dominated Nate Marquardt to win the Strikeforce welterweight title on the very last event produced by the former #2 promotion. As Strikeforce ceased operations, the top fighters folded to the UFC with 'The Sponge' among the top guys on their short list of transferees, but unfortunately, injuries have forced him to remain in the sidelines for an extended period.

Fast forward to about a year since that career defining win, and Saffiedine is dead set on making the same impact when he finally makes his UFC debut this weekend. It's been 12 months since he last competed, but he's confident he will be able to pick up where he left off.

"We'll see. I guess we'll find out on January 4th if I have any ring rust. I think the ring rust is there when you're sitting at home all year, you're eating pizza and ice cream, and you're not doing what you're supposed to do," Saffiedine told BloodyElbow.com as he talked about his layoff, "That's not what I did. I've been training. I've been recovering from injuries, but I stayed hungry. I stay motivated and focused on what I need to do, so I don't think there's going to be any effect."

Saffiedine_vs_lim_2_medium

Related: UFN 34: Saffiedine vs Lim Media Day Photos: Face Offs, Scrums..and this baby.

Saffiedine has competed in Europe, Asia and North America throughout his career, and while a few Japanese fighters have cited long trips as a reason for under-performing in other continents, this well traveled fighter believes that his flight all the way to Singapore won't be a concern for him at all.

"I don't think (traveling here will have any negative effect on me). I've been in Singapore a couple of times before. I was able to adjust because I came a little bit early also to adjust to the jetlag, to the food and everything else, so I'm feeling pretty good," he continued, "The weight cut is good too. Better actually than my last few fights, so I'm feeling good."

A bigger concern during camp wasn't actually the travel, but the sudden change in opponents. Originally booked to face Jake Ellenberger, the proud Belgian is now set to headline against Hyun Gyu Lim, and a lot of tweaks had to be made in his preparations.

"They have two different styles," Saffiedine states as he talked about the change, "Ellenberger is obviously shorter and more explosive with his hands, and a better wrestler I believe. Lim is a tall fighter. He has a good right hand and good knees, so I had to adjust. I had to bring in new sparring partners and adjust my camp, but it went pretty well so I'm ready. I now have good training partners that have long reach and are as tall as him. I've been training with them and we put on a good game plan to adjust to him."

Related: UFC Asian Expansion plans: 5-7 shows for 2014, China on 2015, TUF South East Asia

As far as what he wants to achieve as he starts his UFC career, Saffiedine refused to look past this weekend and instead gave a more nationalistic approach as he spoke about his debut.

"I want to be the first Belgian to go inside the UFC and win," he exclaims as he talks about his immediate goals, "I want to represent Belgium for the very first time, and that's what's important to me."

"After the fight, we'll see. Obviously I want to go as far as I can. I want to climb the ranks, but we'll see after this fight. I'm really focused on Lim right now."

Follow me on twitter -- @antontabuena

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