If you watched Strikeforce Challengers on Showtime this past weekend, you undoubtedly remember Tarec “Sponge” Saffiedine (8-2), who was making his promotional debut. Saffiedine, a Dream veteran, probably made his opponent James Terry (7-2) feel like he was in a nightmare fighting someone with four arms and four legs. In the end, the superior striker Saffiedine walked away with the unanimous decision victory.
Pro MMA Now (www.prommanow.com) caught up with Saffiedine on Sunday to talk about the fight, and to learn more about his unique striking background. He also explained the origin of his unusual nickname, how he ended up at Team Quest, and what he would like to ultimately achieve in the sport.
Hello Tarec, thank you for speaking to us at Pro MMA Now (www.prommanow.com). How are you doing, and how are you feeling after your big win and unanimous decision victory over James Terry Friday night in San Jose at Strikeforce Challengers 6?
I feel great. I am gonna take a couple of days off and be back training as soon as possible for the next fight.
Personally, I thought it was a great fight. James Terry showed a lot of heart by staying in there. What are your thoughts on the fight, were you happy with your performance,and with the way the fight went?
He is the toughest opponent I fought so far. He is really tough guys, he kept coming forward even after I landed some hard punches. I believe we put on a great fight and the fans enjoyed it. I am really happy I won the fight because it’s in his hometown and I put a lot of hard work behind. The fight went really well as I planned, I always listen to my corner and they gave me the best advice to make me win.
That one head kick you landed where you faked it to the body then went high was awesome. I have often wondered why fighters don’t use those more. I like the ones where you fake a low kick and go high too. Why do you think more fighters don’t use those type of kicks?
I love to land this kick but I still have to work on it a lot because the speed is there but I still have to put more power behind it to be able to knock someone out. I have a lot of flexibility in my hips which make the kick easier for me. I think a BJJ guy will learn faster this kind of kick because of the hips flexibility than a wrestler. But with work we can make anything possible in this game.
I know you train with Team Quest, but I can’t think of anyone at Team Quest who strikes like you do Tarec. Talk to us about your striking background. When did you first get into the striking aspects of martial arts, and where and with who have you studied with?
I started to train in Taekwondo then I wanted a martial art more complete, this is when I discovered Shihaishinkai Karate which is a karate style where we trained the stand up, judo throws, and the ground game, so it was really complete. I trained under Enrique Fernandez who is the founder of this martial art. I used to travel a lot in Europe and in Thailand to fight and trained over there to complete my stand up and my fighting experience. [see video]
Who are the striking coaches at Team Quest that you work with?
Ed Buckley is the head coach in Muay Thai and Gustavo Pugliese is the head coach in boxing. They are both amazing and are able to understand the stand up in the MMA game which is not always easy to make.
I know you are originally from Belgium. First off, how old are you, how did you get involved with MMA, and why and when did you relocate to the U.S.?
I am 23. My karate background was really close from the MMA world and my former coach always used to teach us techniques for the MMA game. In Belgium, the only way you make a living of sport its if you play soccer or basketball and I wasn’t good enough for each of those. So when I fought in MMA for the first time in 2006, I realised it was the only thing I wanted to do for a living so I took the chance to train here in USA with Team Quest. I live here with my fiance since January 2008.
Did you play any other sports growing up, what other jobs have you held, and what type of work would you do if you were not a fighter?
Since I was born I always played sport, it was either soccer, basketball, tennis or swimming. It was the only class I was good at school. (laughs) I worked a lot of jobs after high school because I didn’t go to college and started training. I used to work in a restaurant, cinema selling tickets or in the kitchen cooking the popcorn, gardener, and security. I have a certificate in personal training so I think I would do that.
Who nicknamed you “the Sponge” and why did they call you that?
My former coach told me once that everything he taught me I learned it really quick and was able to do it a couple of hours after practicing it. I was like a sponge. It’s a funny name but I like it.
What is next for Tarec Saffiedine, and what would you like to ultimately achieve in the world of MMA?
Train hard, work on my wrestling, and fight soon. I would like the people to see me as a complete MMA fighter, not just a striker who tries to keep the fight standing up. I want to be able to go everywhere I want in a fight and make my opponent guess at all time. This is what I want to work on for my next fight and the future.
Thank you Tarec. Congratulations on your win. You have a bright future ahead of you in MMA, no doubt about it, and it’s going to be fun to watch! Are there any sponsors you want to thank or do you want to send any shout outs?
Thank you for the interview! I want to say a big thanks to my sponsor Clinch Gear, and Team Quest. Thank you to my fiance who is my fan number one, also my family and my brothers, I miss them a lot, and all my friends back home.