Tanner Saraceno caught up with CFFC.tv to describe his experience on WWE's reality show Tough Enough and how he's preparing for his CFFC Debut.
Tanner "The Hammer" Saraceno has been through some very unique situations over the past few years training for MMA fights, transitioning to professional wrestling, and now back to MMA. Despite the challenges and disappointments he's faced, Tanner remains unfazed and tells CFFC.tv he's ready for his journey to the top of the sport.
Saraceno, like a lot of high school athletes, first got into MMA through wrestling. From there, his love for the sport grew into a passion. But Tanner has a love for professional wrestling as well, and when the opportunity to participate on the #1 pro wrestling reality show presented itself, Tanner took it and ran with it. His physical performance when it came to the show's weekly challenges was unmatched, but Saraceno ended up being eliminated from Tough Enough right before the grand finale due to concerns that he lacked the charisma to be a WWE superstar. Despite not winning in the end, Tanner still says it was a awesome opportunity.
“It was a surreal experience compared to everything I’m used to. I was living by myself at the time, and to go from that to being packed in a house with 11 other strangers, and being on a strict time schedule was a bit of a culture shock.
It was confusing at times in terms of preparation, you are kind of expected to just get up and go when they tell you to. Overall it was a great experience. It was something I would recommend, but maybe not do again because reality television isn’t exactly reality.
Saraceno also addressed the knocks on his ability to play the part of a pro wrestler.
"Anyone that has spent even a few minutes around me when I'm hydrated and fully carb'd knows I don't lack charisma. I may need to practice my acting skills, but considering I've only even competed in physical competitions that's going to be obvious.”
Many people tend in the MMA community tend to discredit professional wrestling as "fake" because it consists of aspects that are not nearly as pure as MMA. Saraceno says that although matches are indeed planned out, the actual work they're doing is extraordinary.
“Yes it is choreographed to an extent. They’re going out there to put on a show because that’s what they do, but the amount of athleticism in the WWE in unreal. The entire professional wrestling world really is crazy. You go into the gym and you see guys doing 405lbs on a front squat and you wonder if they’re actually human. And these are parallel, perfect squats, not some of the half squats I’ve seen from some MMA fighters.
The feats of strength that these guys have, along with the arial acrobatics and body coordination, are amazing. They leave their footing and they can flip, spin, and land on the exact pinpoint location over and over. Not many people can do those things. There are definitely some world-class athletes in the sport for sure.”
The work-load and effort that it takes to make it in pro wrestling is very similar to mixed martial arts because of how unforgiving the pro wrestling industry is. You must be a member of the top echelon of athletes or else you will be scrounging just like in MMA. This created a high pressure environment of people all trying to out perform one another on Tough Enough.
"Hard work is hard work no matter what field you’re in. You can go from fighting, to pro wrestling, to being an accountant; if you want to succeed you have to put in the hard work. There’s no other way around that. Obviously the accountant may not being doing the same work as the fighter, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t putting in the hours of overtime the same as the fighter is studying film.
When it comes to the WWE, I noticed that literally every person that’s a part of the show is doing everything they can to consistently improve themselves, whereas in MMA sometimes you have gyms with a few standouts, and others are just there to show up.
Tanner says his sole focus right now is to become the best MMA fighter he can be. With that being said, he has not counted out a return to pro wrestling should the timing be right.
"I never shut doors when it comes to opportunities like pro wrestling, and I do think that opportunity still exists for me to cross between the two. Other athletes have done it their way, and I believe there’s better, and more involved ways to do that as long as you are willing to do what it takes. At the end of the day I do have bills to pay and wrestling at this time will not pay those bills, so obviously I’m doing MMA to make the money that way.
Most importantly I want to make a name for myself. I think I’ve done a fairly decent job so far, but I still have a very long way to go. I’m definitely on the right track and I’m just going to reach for every opportunity and make my way to the top.
Saraceno admits he made some mistakes after being eliminated from Tough Enough. Those mistakes ended up costing him the next two fights he took. Saraceno didn't stay prepared and he ultimately paid the price with two losses. Luckily, one of them does not tarnish his record.
"One of those fights was an unsanctioned exhibition in Kuwait and I came right off the show and took that fight on two and a half weeks notice. I had to drop 30 pounds when I was pretty much solid muscle doing nothing but eating, sleeping, and lifting on the show. The weight cut hurt me, the traveling hurt me, and of course not training for 12 weeks leading up to the fight was rough. The other loss came after I made the mistake of gorging when my original bout got cancelled. I ended up taking another fight two weeks after eating nothing but junk. As a result I gassed out early in the second and it went downhill from there. When I train properly and intelligently, I succeed. So, that’s my game-plan going into my fight with CFFC. Just keeping myself on the right track."
Saraceno's methodical approach should have him in peak condition leading up to February 18th. When asked about how he is preparing for his opponent Matt Socholotiuk, Saraceno says he's focusing more on himself than Matt.
“I’m never really training specifically for my next opponent at this level because I have so many flaws as a mixed martial artist. I’m just continuing my training. I watch film of myself to sort of analyze how I would beat myself, and I work to better those weaknesses. I’ve watched some film on Matt as well, and I know he doesn’t like getting hit, but he will definitely press forward for an entire fight. I can tell he’s really strong, and that’s from going back to his football days. I believe he’s going to try and make it a grappling match because I don’t think he wants to strike with me.
He’s shorter and I believe I will have some good reach on him, so I imagine he’ll want to push me up against the cage which works just fine for me because I’m a strong grappler. I think I can out position him everywhere we go. The plan is to test my striking and showcase the things that I’ve been improving on. I really just want to get out there and engage.”
Saraceno knows that Cage Fury is his best chance at becoming known on the regional MMA scene, and he plans to take full advantage of the spotlight. His experiences with the WWE left Tanner with 19,000 fans booing him at one point, so fighting in the CFFC cage is not exactly a daunting task for him. He understands that any exposure is good exposure in a world where the fighters with the biggest followings are the ones who get paid the big bucks.
"There’s different kinds of feelings you get from performing for an audience. When you have thousands of people booing you, you really start second guessing what the hell you’re doing with your life. You start to wonder what you did wrong, but after sitting back and talking with some professionals in the wrestling industry I realized what I was doing right. The biggest thing you can do as an athlete in any sport is to get a reaction.
Like me or hate me I’m going to go out and perform to the best of my ability. I’m going to win, and I will continue my rise to the top. I would love for fans to like me, and it would probably help me sleep better at night, but if I have to get a reaction via boos I’ll take that too."
When speaking about his career goals, Saraceno mentioned that AMMA might have to create an entirely new article to go through them all. He reaches past the stars in aims for another galaxy when it comes to the things he wants to accomplish as both an athlete and a business owner.
"I’m a very ambitious person. Some people call me arrogant, which to a certain extent is true. I have dreams of becoming a legend in the sport, not just making it to the UFC. I want to become the top level athlete that people do not want to fight. I want to win belt, after belt, after belt, and really make a name for myself. I’m doing everything in my power to set myself up to do that.
I could very easily work a 9-5 job and make 100k a year because I know those jobs are out there. That’s not my dream. I want to become an icon and build my own dynasty. I’d like to one day open up my own gym and guide fighters that are willing to put in the hard work. I want to eventually teach what I’ve learned to other fighters and help them get through their hard times."
Saraceno's intentions may seem untouchable to the average person, but when you see the kind of brand he has built for himself this early into his career you start to recognize the possibility of this guy being a star. He has over 50,000 followers across his social media platforms, and a win at CFFC 63 would make it four in a row for Saraceno. Win streaks like that do not go noticed, and achieving that feat will help Tanner further climb his endless ladder to stardom.
You can see Tanner's bout vs. Matt Socholotiuk at CFFC 63 on February 18th, at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. With less then 200 tickets available weeks out from the show - this one is sure to be a SELLOUT!