Johannesburg - While many fighters opt for hardcore heavy metal or hip hop to accompany them during their walkout, Cameron Saaiman prefers to lighten the mood ahead of the controlled chaos that is about to ensue.
It may come as a surprise to many, but the 22-year-old has a soft spot for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1974 hit song Sweet Home Alabama, despite it being released 26 years before the EFC bantamweight contender was born.
“Sweet Home Alabama, wow … The thing is, every single time I saw guys fight, especially at amateur level, they always had these super serious and highly-dramatic and angry songs. And, I just didn't want that. I wanted something I can jam to and just enjoy,” says Saaiman (4-0), who is set to fight Sindile Manengela (8-7) for the latter’s Extreme Fighting Championship bantamweight belt this weekend at EFC 94.
“My coach (Morne Visser) always reminds us to have fun, and that really stuck to me. I also wanted a song that is going to remind me of the same thing … Like, you know, it’s chilled, it’s not that serious, relax. You are going to be fine, walk out, have fun, jam to the music, laugh. Keep that smile,” says Saaiman, who chose that song due to his obsession with the 1997 Jerry Bruckheimer-produced hit movie Con Air.
The movie is of great significance to the young athlete – not only because the film and the Friends DVD box-set were staples in the Saaiman household, but also due to the fact that his parents named him after the lead character Cameron Poe (played by Nicolas Cage).
“Con Air and the Friends DVD box-set were at a stage the only DVDs we had, so I watched that a lot. And in that movie, they have Sweet Home Alabama, and when I was choosing my song, it dawned upon me and I told myself I am going to walk out to Sweet Home Alabama,” says Saaiman.
Saaiman has not put a foot wrong since turning professional in the mixed martial arts world, finishing as the winner in all four of his fights, and all within the second round.
His great maturity and application toward his MMA career so far, along with the fact that he is backed by one of the best gyms (CIT) in South Africa, stands him in good stead.
On Saturday, Saaiman gets his first shot at a title and could easily become one of the greatest to ever do it, following in the footsteps of his mentor and training partner the former double EFC champion and now UFC star Dricus du Plessis.
*EFC 94 takes place on Saturday in Paulshof, Johannesburg.
Visit to www.iol.co.za/sport and MzansiMMA for more details.