Dana White called Cameron Saaiman ‘the future’ of UFC

Dana White called Cameron Saaiman ‘the future’ of UFC

2: 09 AM ET

  • Leonard SolmsSpecial to ESPN


      Jack of all sporting trades. Author of my 11-year-old self’s fantasy story about his road to FIFA World Cup glory. Writing about people who do what I promised to do is my art.

Dubbed by UFC president Dana White as “the future” of the sport, 21-year-old Cameron Saaiman (6-0-0) is on a mission to prove him right on his debut at UFC 282 in Vegas on Dec. 10.

The South African, a protege of Dricus “Stillknocks” du Plessis and coach Morne Visser, will fight Steven Koslow (6-0-0) in a bantamweight bout after securing his UFC spot with a Contender Series win over Josh Wang-Kim, via KO/TKO at 2: 52 of Round 3. White said, “Dude, you are amazing. For 21 years old, the way you kept your composure in there … absolutely a professional man. Your new nickname is “The Future”. “

Saaiman was the youngest active male UFC fighter until then-17-year-old Raul Rosas Jr. (now 18) won a contract a month later. Rosas Jr. will also be making his full UFC debut on Dec. 10, against Jay Perrin.

The South African said to ESPN that it was an honor to be called that by Jay Perrin.

“If anything, I think it added a lot of motivation, because since I started as a professional, I turned pro when I was 18 and there was a lot of criticism because of that and I had to prove myself every single time.

“All I’m going to do on Dec. 10 is just prove Boss Dana right. I will prove him wrong and show people that I am the future. “

Explaining how he fell in love with mixed martial arts, the Pretoria-born Saaiman said: “My father actually worked for Carnival City, which hosted the EFC events — the local events here in South Africa.

“He was the project manager there, and I just happened to be there at his work. That’s how I fell in love and became a fan of the sport. After watching a few fights, I went to my dad and said: ‘I want this. This is amazing. ‘

“As a 12-year-old kid, you can get tired of many sports. I skateboarded for about a week before I stopped. I tried a lot of other sports, but this one stuck. “

Being taken under Du Plessis’ wing took Saaiman’s love for the sport to new heights and the pair will fight together at UFC 282 — the first time South Africa will be represented by more than one fighter at a UFC event. Du Plessis will face Darren Till in middleweight.

Although they are close now, Saaiman revealed that it took time for 28-year-old ‘Stillknocks’ to truly become enthusiastic about mentoring him.

Saaiman said: “I had an amazing sponsor — Q4 Fuel was a truly amazing sponsor that helped my since I was a child, just helping me with basic equipment. Because I came from a poor background financially, having a sponsor helped me pay for equipment and competition fees. It was a blessing.

” When their business wanted to sponsor a larger team, they gave me the opportunity to shift gyms. Dricus had the responsibility of coaching me.

” I think at times, especially in the beginning, he didn’t want to do it but it was a huge asset to the team. We quickly formed a coach-student relationship, and then [a relationship as] training partners. “

Both South African MMA (and the UFC bantamweight) could see the event in Vegas as a symbolic passing of the baton.

“It is an absolute honor to fight with du Plessis. It’s the first time that South Africans have not been represented by just one man on the main card. Instead, they are a team of two who will go to the UFC to represent South Africa and Team CIT. Saaiman stated, “I’m very lucky.”

” We’ve had a great year. It’s been amazing in terms of our team’s momentum. I am eager to show our skills and show what we have left. We did a great job in the Contender Series. I believe we can do it even better in the UFC debut. “

In regards to Koslow (a fellow debutant in the UFC), Saaiman expressed respect but not fear or deference.

“He’s a great opponent,” Saaiman stated of his opponent, who hails in Jacksonville, Florida.

“Obviously, he has a good ground game, but the result will stay the same. Come fight night, my hand will be raised. “

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