Jason Saggo is training for the fight of his life.
The 28-year-old Grand Tracadie resident will realize a dream June 14 in Vancouver when he makes his UFC debut.
“The guys in the UFC are the highest calibre guys you can compete against,” he said. “It’s the big leagues. It’s the NHL of MMA.”
Saggo (9-1-0) will meet Josh Shockley (11-2-0) in Vancouver.
It will be the culmination of seven years of training to get to the UFC for Saggo and he has no plans on leaving anytime soon.
“You have to do well every fight. You can get cut at any point,” Saggo said.
The Bolton, Ont., native was studying philosophy and psychology at the University of Guelph when a friend suggested he attend a karate/muay thai class.
“I just fell in love with it,” Saggo said. “I knew it was for me.”
After graduating from university, he started travelling to places like Thailand, South East Asia, Brazil and Japan to learn more about mixed martial arts.
Five years ago in Bolton, Saggo crossed paths with Paul Abel. The 20-year veteran of mixed martial arts took Saggo under his wing and started training the aspiring athlete.
Abel moved to Prince Edward Island about
2 1/2 years ago and Saggo joined him last year and they train out of the Wulfrun MMA in Clyde River.
Abel has watched Saggo’s boxing, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu and wrestling skills steadily improve.
“At one point in time everything was separate. It was compartmentalized,” Abel explained. “The biggest improvement is the fact that it’s all (now) blending seamlessly.”
Saggo won his first professional fight in 2009 in Ireland and the only blemish on his record is a split-decision loss in 2011 to Jesse Ronson, who is now in the UFC. Eight of his nine wins came by submission.
Saggo said his win and finishing ratios, combined with a tryout for The Ultimate Fighter TV show last year, helped him get noticed by the UFC.
Two weeks ago, he signed his four-fight UFC contract and has been training this week in Toronto.
“You have to be in the best shape of your life if you’re going to go into a 15-minute war. It’s all about that one night in the cage.”
Saggo is one of 24 Canadian men in the UFC and the first Island resident to make the show. He said the support from across the province has been great.
Abel said the Island has a stable of talented, disciplined athletes working towards making the UFC.
Saggo said the support from sponsors has helped him follow his dream.
“They’re the reason I got here because I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”
u Who – A mixed martial arts fighter.
u Hometown – Bolton, Ont.
u Age – 28.
u Size, weightclass – Five-foot-11, 155-pound lightweight.
u Professional record – 9-1-0 with eight submissions.
u The latest – Saggo recently signed a four-fight contract with the UFC. He makes his debut Saturday, June 14, against Josh Shockley (11-2-0) at UFC 174 in Vancouver.
u Quote – “He’s a very good striker. He’s a very good wrestler, but his submissions and his jiu-jitsu really put him on another level.”
- Coach Paul Abel regarding Saggo.
u Outside the octagon – Saggo is an avid hiker.