Dubbed “the future” of the sport by UFC President Dana White, 21-year-old Cameron Saaiman (6-0-0) is on a mission to prove him right in his debut at UFC 282 in Vegas on December 10 give.
The South African, a protégé of Dricus “Stilknocks” du Plessis and trainer Morné Visser, will face Steven Koslow (6-0-0) in a bantamweight bout after cementing his place in the UFC with a Contender Series win against Josh Wang-Kim secured KO/TKO at 2:52 in Round 3.
This prompted White to say, “Dude, you’re impressive. For 21 years old how you kept your composure there… absolutely a professional man. Your new nickname is ‘The Future’.”
Saaiman was the youngest active UFC male fighter until then-17-year-old Raul Rosas Jr. (now 18) was signed a month later. Rosas Jr. will also make his full UFC debut against Jay Perrin on December 10th.
The South African told ESPN: “It’s an absolute compliment and an honor to be called that by the boss himself.
“I think it added a lot of motivation because since I started pro, I turned pro at 18 and there was a lot of criticism because of that and I had to prove myself every time.
“All I’m going to do on December 10th is agree with Boss Dana. I will agree with him and I will show people that I am indeed the future.”
Pretoria-born Saaiman explained how he fell in love with mixed martial arts: “My father actually worked for Carnival City, which is where the EFC events were held – the local events here in South Africa.
“He was a project manager there and I happened to be with him at his work and that’s basically how I fell in love with the sport. I saw a few fights and then I went to my dad and said to him, ‘I want to do this. That’s really cool.’
“As a 12-year-old kid, you can get tired from a lot of sports. I skateboarded for about a week and a half before quitting, so I was really jumping around and exercising a lot, but this one really stuck.”
Being taken under the wing of Du Plessis took Saaiman’s love for the sport to new heights and the pair will fight together at UFC 282 – the first time that South Africa will feature more than one fighter at a UFC event. Du Plessis will face Darren Till at middleweight.
Though they’re close now, Saaiman revealed it took some time for the 28-year-old “Stilknocks” to really get excited about mentoring him.
Saaiman explained: “I had an amazing sponsor – Q4 Fuel was an absolutely amazing sponsor who has helped me since I was a kid, just with the basic gear and stuff. So I didn’t come from a very financially strong background. Having a sponsor to help pay for the equipment and the competition fees was an absolute blessing.
“When their company wanted to sponsor a bigger team, they actually gave me the opportunity to switch gyms. As part of the business deal, they sponsored the gym, but Dricus had to train me.
“I think at some stages, especially in the beginning, he didn’t really want to do it, but it was a tremendous asset to the team. We quickly developed a coach-student relationship – and then later [a relationship as] Training partners and friends.”
For both the South African MMA and UFC bantamweight divisions, the Vegas event could mark a ceremonial handover of the baton.
“It’s an absolute honor [to fight with du Plessis]. I think this is the first time ever that South Africans aren’t just one guy on the main card, but a team of two who go to the UFC to represent not just South Africa but Team CIT as well. I’m very lucky,” said Saaiman.
“We had a great year. In terms of the dynamic of our team, it was absolutely amazing. I’m really looking forward to demonstrating our skills and showing what else we’ve got. I think we did well in the Contender Series, but I think we can do even better now in the UFC debut.”
Referring to Koslow, a UFC debutant four years his senior, Saaiman spoke with respect but certainly not fear or reverence.
“He’s a great opponent,” Saaiman said of his opponent, who hails from Jacksonville, Florida.
“Obviously he has good ground play but the result will stay the same. My hand will be raised on the night of the fight.”
https://www.espn.com/espn/story/_/id/35193699/dana-white-called-cameron-saaiman-future-wants-prove-ufc-282 Dana White called Cameron Saaiman ‘the future,’ and he wants to prove it at UFC 282