Cape Town - South African lightweight Martin van Staden feels the UFC are
keeping a closer eye on African talent and has reiterated his desire to fight
in MMA’s premier promotion.
Cameroon’s Francis Ngannou (13-3), who KO’d legendary
heavyweight Cain Velasquez (14-3) in 26 seconds in Arizona, USA on the weekend,
has been making waves in the UFC, as have Nigerian stars Israel Adesanya (16-0)
and Kamaru Usman (14-1).
Van Staden won’t give up on UFC dream
Ngannou is back in title contention along with middleweight
striking sensation Adesanya, while Usman will challenge Tyron
Woodley (19-3-1) for the welterweight crown at the T-Mobile Arena in Las
Vegas on March 2.
Ngannou backs Usman for UFC gold
Van Staden’s (26-11) Coach Quan University teammate and
compatriot Don Madge (8-3-1) also made quite the impression on his UFC debut,
finishing Te Edwards (6-3) with a second-round head kick in Moncton, Canada on
October 27 to earn a $50 000 performance bonus.
Notably, another African
ex-EFC champion has since joined the Las Vegas-based organisation in the form
of DR Congo’s light-heavyweight Dalcha Lungiambula (9-1), who may
make his octagon bow next month.
Adding to such developments, SuperSport
recently penned deals to broadcast UFC and EFC events, further
fuelling Van Staden on his quest to compete on the sport’s biggest stage.
‘The Punisher’ can bolster his bid by reclaiming the vacant EFC
lightweight belt when he meets Englishman Joe Cummins (5-1) at Time Square in
Pretoria on March 16.
“No look, I’ve got aspirations
to get in the UFC,” Van Staden told Kieran Cobley on the MMA
“I still have another two fights left on my contract, which is
up at the end of the year. So obviously after I win this fight, or if I
get an opportunity to get into a big promotion, and my organisation lets me, I
would take that opportunity. But if I’m forced to fight or need to fight at the
end of the year before I make that move, then so be it. But we’ll just plan it
as we go and just see. Whatever happens, happens.”
Asked if the UFC is paying closer attention to African fighters,
the 35-year-old knockout artist said: “Yeah, most definitely. We just had a
teammate [Madge] go over to the UFC and win there in a big way. The EFC has now
signed a TV deal with SuperSport, who is also broadcasting UFC live now,
so the partnership is there between the broadcast rights - so that also opens
up the doors for us. So yes, I definitely think the UFC has got their eyes on
us local boys here.”
Meanwhile, Van Staden expects to be tested by Cummins despite
having a significant experience advantage, as he seeks to rebound from losing
the belt via split decision to the now-retired Dave Mazany (17-6-1) in August,
The well-rounded Cummins
previously outclassed Armand
Scheepers (3-2) en route to a second-round TKO and
second straight win in November last year.
“I’ve got a lot of fight experience under my belt. I think Joe
has been doing martial arts for a long time, and I think he’s done other sports
and has competed,” Van Staden said.
“I think his MMA record is
good. You know, he has only lost to a team-mate (Themba Gorimbo) of mine. But
what I’ve seen of him he’s very experienced. I can see he knows what he
is doing. His record is not a reflection of the calibre of fighter he is.
I think he’s a really good fighter. Ja, I think he’s really good.”