Tarec Saffiedine had built a lot of momentum following his dominant victory over Nate Marquardt on Jan. 12, when he used a series of brutal leg kicks to defeat Marquardt and win the Strikeforce welterweight title.
It was the final bout in Strikeforce history and Saffiedine was heading into the UFC in a good position.
But nearly eight months since that win, Saffiedine hasn't fought again and has no idea when he will. Saffiedine had to pull out of a planned July 27 bout with Robbie Lawler with an injury. Last month, UFC president Dana White told Fox Sports he was planning to pit Saffiedine with Matt Brown, who had won impressively over Mike Pyle at Fox Sports 1 on Aug. 17 in Boston, in a match in December.
That fight, though, has essentially gone by the wayside because no one knows when Saffiedine is going to be able to train again. His performance against Marquardt proved he deserves a top opponent, but all of the top UFC welterweights who aren't injured are going to be booked before much longer for fights before the end of the year. Saffiedine has an uncertain return date, and that will leave him in a difficult spot.
Saffiedine said he had hoped to meet either Brown or ex-interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit, or any top 10 welterweight. But now is when the UFC is going to begin booking the end-of-the-year matches and that may leave Saffiedine on the outside looking in.
"I'm shooting to come back end of this year, beginning of next year," Saffiedine told Cagewriter. "The thing is, I won't know for a few weeks from my doctor when I'm going to have the green light to come back and train. I can't train right now because of the injuries."
Saffiedine said he has two injuries, which he declined to divulge. One, he said he had when he fought Marquardt, and another he got while training for Lawler.
The uncertainty has put him in a very bad place. The welterweight title will be decided on Nov. 16, when Georges St-Pierre defends against No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 in Las Vegas. The UFC would like to have a top contender's fight sometime this year so that there is an obvious title challenger prepared to meet the St-Pierre-Hendricks winner sometime next year.
If that happens, though, it looks like it won't be Saffiedine.
"Obviously, not being able to train and to fight is, for me as a fighter and an athlete, definitely frustrating," Saffiedine said. "Especially for me, I'm someone who really, really enjoys training. Even when I don't have a fight, I'm always at the gym trying to get better and learn new skills.
"It's pretty frustrating for me, but I'm not sitting on the couch all day eating pizza. I can't do that. I'm trying to stay in shape and live a healthy lifestyle as best as I can."
He can only sit and wait and hope to be cleared physically soon and that when he is, it's not too late.
Otherwise, despite the spectacular way he opened 2013, it could wind up being a lost year for him.