After a year of canceled events, numerous injuries to their high-profile athletes and disagreements with Showtime, Strikeforce is closing its doors after their Jan. 12 show.
The fight card, Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine, will be the promotion’s last before it’s all said and done. However, one of the two fighters in the main event, Tarec Saffiedine (13-3), was worried that the last event wouldn’t even happen.
The recent rash of injuries the company suffered made them cancel their two previous events, so Saffiedine thought the same might happen to the upcoming card in Oklahoma City.
“When I heard that Gilbert Melendez and Luke Rockhold got injured and they didn’t find an opponent for Daniel Cormier and other guys, I was like ‘Maybe they’ll cancel the show. Maybe the show’s not going to happen,'” Saffiedine told GRACIEMAG.com. “I was a little worried [about that] more than Nate Marquardt dropping out of the fight. I don’t think it’s his style to back out of a fight … so I was more afraid of the show being completely canceled because of all these injuries.”
According to the fighter, he was skeptical and worried that after dealing with a handful of fighters withdrawing from the card due to different types of injuries, Strikeforce would decide to just call it quits. Luckily for him, they haven’t, and he’ll fight Nate Marquardt in the main event for the Strikeforce welterweight title.
Following UFC 155, UFC president Dana White apologized to all the Strikeforce fighters for the mess they had to deal with over the last several months, saying what the athletes went through is terrible and that he’s disgusted by it.
“I should probably sit down with all of them,” White said in Las Vegas following their last Pay-Per-View. “It won’t happen again; [It’s] over now.”
Before speaking with GRACIEMAG.com, Saffiedine didn’t realize White said this, but responded to the apology by saying it’s great to hear that kind of thing coming from the UFC boss. Fighters earn their living by stepping into the cage, so to hear White share his regret for how things went is appreciated. He added, however, that it’s ultimately unnecessary.
“I think it’s nice because a lot of fighters never had the chance to fight as much as … they wanted to,” Saffiedine said when hearing of White’s statement. “I think it’s nice for him to … understand that we all need to fight and we all need to make money. I don’t think he needed to apologize, but I think it’s nice that he did.”
The Belgian fighter has spent nearly the last three years competing exclusively for Strikeforce. It’s been his home since he defeated James Terry by unanimous decision at Strikforce Challengers 6 in February of 2010. After seven fights and finally working his way up to a title opportunity, Saffiedine can’t help but feel a bit saddened by the end of the Strikeforce era.
It was a great organization and a big part of his career, he said, and being on the promotion’s final effort is an honor the Team Quest fighter genuinely appreciates.
“It’s sad to see Strikeforce go … [and] I really enjoyed fighting for them for a long time,” he said, remembering all the times he stepped in the cage for the company. “They’ve always been good to me. I always wanted to fight a little bit more, but that was the case for all the fighters …
“I was pretty happy … I’m really thankful to be part of the last show.”
As of right now, no new injuries have set a dark cloud over the upcoming Strikeforce show, and all fighters are currently on pace to compete on Jan. 12. Saffiedine said his camp went “pretty well” and, apart from the typical aches and pains that stem from training, nothing major has kept him from pushing himself at 100 percent.
Once fight night comes and goes, “Sponge,” as he’s been called, will work on the next step of his career: a chance to fight in the UFC.
It’s been a dream of his to fight for the Las Vegas-based promotion, and if he wins his title fight against the former No. 1 UFC middleweight contender, Marquardt, then he might just get his chance.
“Hopefully, I earn a spot,” he said. “My goal is … to be the first Belgian to have a fight in the UFC. That’s what I want to accomplish, and so far I’ve been reaching all my goals.”
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