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Exclusive interview: Tim Sylvia on his campaign to return to the UFC

If you have been keeping your eye on the MMA blogosphere the past week or two, you’ve likely seen Tim Sylvia’s video asking the fans to help him make a push to get back in the UFC. The fan response has been quite impressive actually, with MMA discussion forum members and Twitter followers bombarding the Zuffa brass on Sylvia’s behalf.

However, despite claims by UFC President Dana White that it’s his job to give the fans what they want, he has said Sylvia returning to the UFC is not going to happen. Ultimately, this appears to be a case where father – the bald father that is – feels he knows best.

ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) talked with Tim Sylvia (30-7) on Thursday about what prompted him to make the video and to get his reaction to White’s comments. We also talked with Tim about the infamous Ray Mercer knockout, his most recent loss against Abe Wagner and his future.

Sylvia went 10-4 inside the Octagon during his six years fighting for the UFC. He made his debut in 2002 with a second round TKO win over Wesley “Cabbage” Correira at UFC 39 and parted ways with the promotion in 2008 following a third round submission loss to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 81. During his tenure he won five UFC heavyweight championship bouts over Ricco Rodriguez, Gan McGee, Andrei Arlovski (twice) and Jeff Monson.

“The Maine-iac” explained why he was making a push to return to the UFC at this time. “I just seen a lot of the guys in the UFC today are guys I know I can beat and it’s just frustrating, me still fighting in smaller shows and seeing these guys compete and people think that they’re so great,” he said. “It’s just frustrating and irritating that I know I can get in there and knock these guys out.”

When asked specifically which guys he was referring to, he said, “Stefan Struve, the Dave Hermans, the Morecrafts, the Cheick Kongos.”

White has granted many fan requests in the past and if they are loud and persistant enough they quite often get their way. But it doesn’t look like it’s in the cards for Sylvia, at least at this point. In response to Sylvia’s plea, White told MMAJunkie:

“If you look at when Tim Sylvia was in the heavyweight division, I say it all the time: It’s when we had the weakest heavyweight division in the company’s history. Him and (Andrei) Arlovski were knocking each other out every weekend. I have no beef with Tim Sylvia or whatever. The guy’s out there trying to make a living and doing what he’s doing. But for him to make the claim that he could knock out 80 percent of the heavyweights in the UFC, what I just said before says it all.”

Sylvia’s not buying it though. “I think it’s Dana trying to be political and pump up his heavyweight division currently,” he stated. “Three of the guys that were in the division when I was there was Cheick, Mir and Nogueira, and they’re still there. So, how’s it strong now but it was weak then? Arlovski, I and Randy are gone, but now they have Dos Santos, Alistair and Cain. So those three took the place of us three that were in there, so…  And shoot, there’s two guys in the UFC that I’ve currently beaten. I have wins over Brandon Vera and Ben Rothwell.”

Often when the UFC releases a fighter from their contract or decides not to renew their contract, if that fighter goes out and performs well in the smaller shows and puts some wins together, they are able to come back into the fold.

Since Sylva left the UFC in 2008, he’s gone 6-3, with wins over Jason Riley, strong man Mariusz Pudzianowski, Paul Buentello, Vince Lucero, and his two most recent fights were a first round TKO win over Patrick Barrentine in August of last year and then a unanimous decision win over Andreas Kraniotakes at ProElite in November.

His three losses since leaving the UFC started with Fedor Emelianenko in July 2008, then the infamous Ray Mercer knockout in June 2009 and then a first round TKO to TUF 10 vet Abe Wagner in January of last year.

No one can really fault Sylvia for the loss to Fedor, however, he addressed the losses to Mercer and Wagner. “Those two slip-ups were my fault. It’s not like they out-performed me and stuff like that, it’s what I didn’t do,” he said. Sylvia admitted he overlooked Wagner. “I just had a kid 10 days before that fight, so I didn’t really train for the fight, I just went in there and tried to fight,” he said.

Currently 35-years-old, Sylvia said he’s got at least a couple years left in him as a professional. As far as what’s in his immediate future, it looks like “The Maine-iac” will return to action in the Spring. “We have a verbal contract with Dream and ProElite so I’m sure we’ve got something coming up on the horizon in the next month or two,” he said. “We have a verbal agreement right now but I can’t leak anything, but it will happen in April.”

Does Tim Sylvia deserve a final shot in the UFC? I think so, personally. Will he get it? It’s not looking good. But we have seen before that when White makes certain statements about fighters it is not always written in stone. Can Sylvia really beat 80% of the fighters currently in the UFC heavyweight division? He said, “There’s only one way to find out. Put me in.”

  • Squareback

    This is a joke he is fighting guys that are horrible and he still looks bad

  • edub

    Lose the freakin weight Tim.

  • Anonymous

    Sylvia is a decent fighter.

    And he is good enough (when he’s on) that he would beat most of the HW’s on the current roster.

    He probably couldn’t take the belt from the elite top guys they have now, but would put on good fights and easily hover right outside of the very top tier.

    Say, B+ on an average day.

    But its pretty obvious that he will never get back in because of the affliction/fedor debacle.

    He SHOULD have known that he would never be able to come back when he left the way that he did.

    He traded any future with the UFC for allowing affliction and M1 to use him as an attack on the UFC.

    He’ll never get back in, and he should already know clearly how true that is and why.

    (Although he may be just a smidge delusional, so maybe not.)

  • http://twitter.com/KelvinHunt Kelvin Hunt

    Edub has spoken the correct…it’s hard to take him serious with the way he gained all that weight…granted he has gotten into better shape recently…but still…he’s got to win fights and put guys away impressively and he’s not really doing that…

    And yea…the way he left the UFC talking about how he was going to be fighting like every month for Monte Cox, etc….it was funny then….it’s REAL funny now…

  • edub

    Absolutely hilarious.

    He got his big payday fighting Tim. Good for him, and I’m being serious when I say that.

    But at one point Tim Sylvia was a damn good fighter. He used his size very well. He had good grappling. He had decent takedown defense. The way he’s let himself go he’s just not the same fighter, and its clear.

    I’d take Andrei Arlovski with his bubble wrap chin back in the UFC before big Timmah at the moment.

  • edub

    “He got his big payday fighting Tim.”

    Fedor*

  • http://twitter.com/KelvinHunt Kelvin Hunt

    LOL@ bubble wrap chin…..btw, the Edgar/Henderson preview will be up in the morning….

  • Anonymous
  • Pingback: Tim Sylvia Interview with Pro MMA Now | Outside The Ring

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