Former EFC lightweight champion Martin van Staden has revealed he was close to landing a contract with the UFC last year.
Van Staden (26-11), whose Coach Quan University teammate Don Madge (8-3-1) fights in the Las Vegas-based promotion, told the BigAl MMA Podcast he was on the UFC’s radar before losing the belt to now-retired Alaskan Dave Mazany (17-6-1) via split decision in August 2018.
Van Staden explained: “Look, I’ve got a management company that’s based in the UK, Heavy Duty Fight Management, and they’ve really been pushing for me to get in there. They kind of said, ‘Listen, if you win this fight … [the] UFC will be knocking and there will be an offer for you. Whether that happens we will have to wait and see but these are the words coming out of them’.
“Look it’s always been my dream to go to the UFC. I’ve still got two fights left on my contract with the EFC. If I get a contract with the UFC, will the EFC let me go? We’ll just have to wait and see and I will have to sit with Graeme [EFC matchmaker, Cartmell] and chat. And I’m sure we can come to some sort of an agreement.
“I think I’ve given the EFC enough of my career in a sense you know. I’ve been fighting since EFC 09 for them. If this opportunity comes I will sit down with Graeme and Cairo [EFC president, Howarth] and we’ll make the right decision.”
The 36-year-old knockout artist is aware age is not on his side, but refuses to give up on his dream of competing in the octagon following the near miss. Besides Madge’s exploits, Van Staden can draw further encouragement from seeing ex-EFC champ-champ Dalcha Lungiambula (9-1) recently land a UFC deal, and talk that the organisation will stage its first event in Africa next year.
“A lot of people feel that way (that he’s too old for the UFC) because they see 36 as being old. You know I take care of my body. I’m in better shape than most 25-year-olds. My lifestyle is health and fitness. I haven’t taken a lot of damage in what is that, 37 fights. I’ve never been knocked out, never been TKO’d, touch wood, and I will continue to push forward and I will continue to prove people wrong.”
He added: “I think that the UFC … if people really follow the sport, the UFC, they do sign guys that have got good records and are experienced, and might be 35 or late 30s, and have a bit of mileage on them, and have got a bit of wear and tear on them. But I’m not one of those guys. I’ve only been in combat sports now 11 years. A lot of guys fighting now have been fighting since they were nine years or 10 years old.
“I’m just finding my stride right now. I’m just finding my style right now. I’ve matured mentally and physically now at 36 and I’m excited for the next couple of years.”
Van Staden can bolster his bid for UFC recognition by reclaiming the vacant EFC 70kg strap at Joe Cummins’ (5-1) expense at Time Square in Pretoria on March 16.