The Fighters.com Interview Tim Sylvia Walked Away From

Former UFC heavyweight champion “Maine-iac” Tim Sylvia (24-6) agreed to an interview with Fighters.com before his fight versus Jason Riley (6-1) at Adrenaline MMA 4 in Omaha Friday…until he peeped my questions.

“Chad, I am not going to do this interview,” Sylvia graciously responded.  “I don’t like how this whole thing is coming accross.  Sorry.”

Below are the questions that Sylvia refused to answer along with what Fighters.com could dig-up.  You decide if Fighters.com’s questions were out of line.  Of course, Fighters.com would prefer to put Sylvia on the record on the issues fans are chattering about.   And, Fighters.com stands by everything written here as told by reliable sources, but sources can only speak from their point of view.   It’s unfortunate Sylvia won’t tell his story.

Fighters.com: Looking back, was the “Merciless” Ray Mercer (1-1) fight a good decision?

Sources close to Adrenaline MMA 3 told Fighters.com that, good decision or bad, Sylvia’s fight versus the 48-year old former boxing champion was a career move that Sylvia and his manager, Monte Cox, felt was safe enough.

Recall Sylvia had pocketed $800,000, not including unreported bonuses, for his 36-second submission loss to Fighters.com Heavyweight Champion “Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (30-1) at Affliction in Anaheim in July 2008, an unsustainable salary for Affliction to continue paying out after the loss and damage to Sylvia’s marketability.  Recall also that Affliction had begun renegotiating contracts after their debut and Fighters.com’s sources say Sylvia’s purse was slashed for his scheduled return versus “Headhunter” Paul Buentello (27-9).  Promotions in Japan were also calling Sylvia, but offering about two-thirds Sylvia’s asking price without providing fights highly visible in the important American market.

Sylvia had long fancied himself a potential boxing champion and thought boxing could provide additional opportunities to score paydays while he rebuilt his status in mixed martial arts.

It was Mercer’s manager who originally contacted Cox to pitch an MMA fight between Mercer and Sylvia, a fight Cox and Sylvia were not interested in because it couldn’t rebuild Sylvia’s status in MMA.  However, both Cox and Sylvia were interested in a boxing match to serve as Sylvia’s debut in the squared circle.

Sylvia was quite blatant about his intentions.  “It’s not secret I intend to use Ray as a stepping-stone for boxing.  No doubt about it,” Sylvia admitted during a pre-fight presser.

Sylvia’s and Cox’s attitudes were, “What do we have to lose?”  If Sylvia had out-boxed Mercer, it could’ve lead to some highly-visible boxing matches that could’ve reignited Sylvia’s MMA marketability and provide a secondary income stream.  If Sylvia had been out-boxed by Mercer, he would’ve been beaten by a former Olympian and world heavyweight champion boxer in a sport Sylvia had never fought in before and Sylvia would’ve been satisfied that his dreams of boxing glory were only dreams.

Perhaps lost among those career considerations was the fight itself versus a still-dangerous Mercer, except among Sylvia’s friends.

“Li’l Evil” Jens Pulver (22-12-1) ominously warned Sylvia, godfather to Pulver’s son, before the fight, “Professionally, sometimes you just got to step back and go ‘Damn, Tim.  What are you doin’?’”  Pulver added,  “I think they’re taking this fight with Mercer as a sparring bout.  And you’re gonna find out real fast…Mercer probably isn’t taking it as a sparring bout.  He’s not going to swing like it’s a sparring bout.”

And, Sylvia’s physical condition entering the fight implied he and his trainers weren’t taking the boxing match seriously.  Syliva weighed a career-high 310.6 pounds for the fight.

But, Sylvia was further emboldened when the Association of Boxing Commissions reversed its initial decision to allow the River Cree Combative Sports Commission to sanction the boxing bout in Alabama, a state without its own sanctioning body, and declared the boxing match illegal.  Mercer agreed to change the rules to MMA, but challenged Sylvia’s manhood to fight Mercer’s fight regardless of the rule changes.

As an MMA fight, it should’ve been a safe bet for Sylvia.  Cox could be heard just before the bell telling Sylvia, “Don’t fuck around with this guy.  Don’t let him get to you.  Go in there, take him down, and finish him on the ground.”

But, Mercer had evidently got to Sylvia’s pride.  At the first ding-ding, Sylvia walked directly to the middle of the cage, threw a pawing leg kick, and proceeded to box Mercer in their four-ounce MMA gloves.  Nine-seconds later, Sylvia was on his back after a short Mercer right hook.

Fighters.com speculates that it wasn’t the matchup versus Mercer Sylvia regrets, but perhaps his attitude towards it.  Sylvia’s and Cox’s initial estimations that the matchup was safe enough were probably correct, but, again, lost among the career considerations was the fight itself and how serious even a 48-year old former boxing world champion is.

Fighters.com:  In a video at tenth-ranked “Pitbull” Andrei Arlovski‘s (14-7) website recently, Andrei identified you as the guy he’d most like to fight, probably the same way you want to get your hands on third-ranked Frank Mir (12-4).  What do you think about another rematch with Arlovski?   “Snowman” Jeff Monson also told Fighters.com he’d like a rematch with you. With two known, good heavyweight free agents calling you out, why are you fighting Riley?  Is the downside risk versus Riley much greater than any reward, like it was in the Mercer fight?

A source close to Sylvia’s camp told Fighters.com, “Arlovski’s manager would be crazy to let [Arlovski] fight Tim again.  [Arlovski] has already been beaten twice by Tim and everyone thinks Arlovski is washed-up too.  If Tim beats him again now, it doesn’t do anything for Tim.”

To be clear, Arlovski’s manager is not the one publicly calling for the rematch.  It’s Arlovski himself, who recently repeated that he’d fight Sylvia again “any time, any place” and added about Sylvia’s UFC return aspirations, “Nobody don’t want to sign Tim Sylvia.”  It’s becoming a battle of words about who’s considered more washed-up between the two former UFC champs.

About a rematch versus Monson, Fighters.com’s source said, “It was so boring the first time, I don’t think I could sit through another three rounds of that fight.  Who would pay to watch that again?”

Actually, Sylvia’s and Arlovski’s dilemmas are the same.  They’re marquee names and still competitive heavyweights, but their perceived marketability has been devalued by their recent losses.  But, as soon as Sylvia and Arlovski accept paydays lower than their established purses, they’ve devalued themselves.  So, they want to be stubborn about the paydays they’ll accept in order to maintain their status in the market.  Sylvia is surely taking a pay cut to fight Riley at Adrenaline MMA, but it’s a pay cut his manager, Cox, can obfuscate because Cox is also the fight’s promoter.

They also want their fights televised because they’re trying to prove to MMA fans they’ve got a lot of fight left.  For Sylvia and Arlovski, fighting a fight that no one sees, even for a big payday, doesn’t help them rebuild.

Except for the UFC and Strikeforce, that’s a tall order for any smaller promotion.  And, once a small promotion lays out the cash to put Sylvia or Arlovski atop their fight card, there’s not a lot of cash left to match them versus an equally big-named opponent.  So, when Sylvia or Arlovski find that golden deal, they’re going to be fighting guys like Riley.  It’s the economics of the industry that has made Riley Sylvia’s opponent at Adrenaline MMA 4 Friday.  Sources close to the event told Fighters.com they were lucky to find Riley because no one wanted to fight Sylvia at the available payout.

Guys like Riley aren’t big names, but are dangerous fighters.  Though Sylvia is the favorite, Riley is both capable of beating Sylvia and has nothing to lose, like Mercer in Sylvia’s previous fight.  Sylvia has everything to lose if he gets beaten by Riley.  So, the risk Sylvia is taking to fight Riley is the end of his career as a top-paid heavyweight fighter should Sylvia lose, while the reward is the continuance of Sylvia’s career as a top-paid heavyweight fighter should Sylvia win.  It’s an all or nothing gamble.

Fighters.com: Did you bed Arlovski’s ex-girlfriend, Patricia Mikula?

This question is personal, but Fighters.com told Sylvia he didn’t need to answer it.  The rumor is persistent and Fighters.com wanted to give Sylvia the opportunity to address it.

Fighters.com can only confirm Sylvia and Mikula were together in public at Adrenaline MMA 1 outside of Chicago in June 2008.

Fighers.com: What are you going to weigh coming in to Omaha?

Sylvia weighed-in at 310.6 pounds before his knockout loss to Mercer in June, 47.6 pounds over his previous fight at Affliction in July 2008.  Fighters.com was told by a source close to Sylvia that Sylvia weighed approximately 285 pounds two weeks ago and should weigh-in Thursday near the 265-pound MMA heavyweight limit.

Fighters.com: How do you feel when you hear UFC President Dana White dog on you now, saying that it was a weak division when you were UFC champion?  Other than Adrenaline MMA, what other organizations might you fight in over the next year?

Evidently Sylvia isn’t taking White’s barbs personally because he told Inside MMA he plans to return to the Octagon.  Steady paychecks soften hard feelings.  However, Fighters.com has been told by sources inside Sylvia’s camp that they feel like White is sacrificing Sylvia’s legacy as UFC champ to talk down Emelianenko as the world’s top heavyweight, whom quickly handled Sylvia and refuses to sign with the UFC.

Fighters.com’s sources have also confirmed Sylvia has already lined-up another fight before the end of 2009 on a smaller show, though the sources wouldn’t reveal the name of the promotion.

Fighters.com: Have you ever considered training anywhere else than “Croatian Sensation” Pat Miletich‘s (29-7-2) gym in Davenport?

Yes.  Fighters.com has confirmed that Sylvia has spent time training in other camps, including with Mark DellaGrotte at Sityodtong in Boston and “El Guapo” Bas Rutten (28-4-1) at Elite MMA in Los Angeles.  However, Militech’s gym remains Sylvia’s home gym.

The following questions remain unswered because only Sylvia knows their answers.  However, Fighters.com doesn’t think asking these questions was out of line.

Fighters.com: After the shape you came in and the result of the Mercer fight, a lot of fans are questioning whether your heart is in fighting anymore. How was the loss to Fedor Emelianenko affected your attitude towards this sport?

Fighters.com: Arlovksi recently admitted playing Russian roulette after losing his fight to Emelianenko and fifth-ranked “Grim” Brett Rogers (10-0). Was your lowest point ever that low?

Adrenaline MMA 4 will be held at the Mid-American Center in Council Bluffs on September 18.  The undercard will start at 7:30 PM; the main card will be broadcast on HDNet beginning at 9:00 PM.  Pre-sale tickets start at $33 for general admission, $103 ringside, and $530 for a table of ten.  Purchase tickets at Ticketmaster.

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