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Wednesday, Feb 26, 2003

Ready For His Close-uptim Sylvia Gets His Shot At The Crown

Ready For His Close-Up
Tim Sylvia Gets His Shot At The Crown

By Loretta Hunt

Tim Sylvia
      Although Tim Sylvia doesn’t have much love for Ricco Rodriguez these days, don’t expect to see him chuck any chairs at the UFC Heavyweight Champion in the pre-fight events leading up to their square-off this Friday at UFC 41: Onslaught. "There was some [love] until yesterday when he started running his mouth about me and my team," remarks Slyvia from his home in Davenport, Iowa. It’s a couple of weeks before the 6’8" 250-pounder will get his shot at the crown, and Sylvia is relaxing in the few hours between his morning and evening workouts. Rodriguez has appeared on a Canadian radio station that past weekend, where the "Suave" one apparently directed comments towards not only Sylvia, but also towards his team–Miletich Martial Arts. "He did that once before and it’s been a while, so I let it go when he said stuff about Matt [Hughes]," comments the former Maine native with a twinge of genuine forgiveness in his voice. "But running his mouth about my teammates–you know they had a tough time in Canada with Jens losing to Ludwig and Tony losing to ‘the Crow’ [UCC 12]. He actually brought that up!" proclaims the exacerbated giant, as if Rodriguez has committed the ultimate cardinal sin.
      It becomes abundantly clear that if you mess with one Miletich fighter, you’re messing with them all, and as Sylvia relates the story of how he found out he’d be getting the next heavyweight title shot, one can almost imagine a tattered picture of Rodriguez’s mug dangling from a dart board hanging in the famous Iowa gym. "I didn’t even know at first. Monte [Cox, Sylvia’s longtime manager] had told the rest of my team before me." Standing in the hotel check-in line for UFC 40, Sylvia overheard fellow teammate and resident lightweight powerhouse Jens Pulver rant, "He better beat that boy’s ass or I’ll never talk to him again."

Tim Sylvia (right) facing off against Cabbage Correira at UFC 39
Sylvia (right) facing off against Cabbage

With the cat out of the bag, this revelation successfully put to rest the rumor that Sylvia would be paired up next against another towering figure, 6’10" Gan McGee, for a modern-day "Battle of the Giants." Slyvia had heard that rumor as well, but wasn’t the least bit disappointed to find out that it no longer held water. "Oh hell yeah," he confidentially beamed from the MGM Grand Hotel lobby. The main event was on.
      Three years have gone by since Sylvia made it his personal goal to fight in the UFC, an accomplishment he achieved last September with his debut against Wes "Cabbage" Correira at UFC 39. Not bad for a man who has test-driven more nicknames in the last few months than an 18-year old with free reign in a Camaro dealership. "Superman." and "The Grizzly Bear" have fallen to the wayside, and it seems Sylvia has settled on "Maine-iac," an homage to the northeasterly state he hails from.
      It was back in this rural countryside famous for its succulent lobsters, that Sylvia took his first step towards becoming a professional athlete, competing as a high school wrestler and studying Okinawan karate for seven years. Eventually moving to another town and taking up work as a bouncer at a local bar, the then 330-pounder was first introduced to grappling when his colleagues would meet twice a week at a Gold’s Gym to roll. As a group, they picked up moves from anyone that could spare them and absorbed knowledge from every instructional tape they could get their hands on. After a year, a confident Sylvia entered a few local grappling competitions and quickly progressed to open-hand amateur NHB fights in Rhode Island. Future NAGA founder Kipp Kollar was the promoter of these shows, and he helped the promising potential land a fight with the IFC in New Jersey. From there, the chain of events fell like dominoes. A chance meeting with Pat Miletich at one of the UFC’s led to a week long invitation to train with him and his established crew. After a week where Sylvia says he "trained his ass off," Pat didn’t have to ask twice when he offered Sylvia a permanent chance to train with the team. The easygoing heavyweight was back in Iowa by month’s end training for his next fight in the WEF.

Click here to continue the interview

From Josh Hedges/Zuffa:

UFC Logo

Ultimate Fighting Championship Brings Its Brand Of International Mixed Martial Arts Fighting To Florida For First Time At American Airlines Arena

Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes To Defend Title Against Sean Sherk;
Brazilians Bitteti, Franca, Floridian Cronkilton Will Fight On Card

      LAS VEGAS, February 27, 2003… The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) today announced that tickets, $300, $200, $100, $60 and $30, for UFC 42: Sudden Impact will go on sale Saturday, March 1, at the box office at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Fla., at all Ticketmaster locations and at www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets also may be ordered by telephone at 1-800-736-1420, 1-305-358-5885 (Dade County) or 1-954-523-3309 (Broward County). The UFC will bring its international brand of mixed martial arts fighting to Florida for the first time.
      "Our thousands of Florida fans have been anticipating the UFC holding one of its international pay-per-view fight shows in the state for some time. We are as excited as they are about providing an entertaining sports event they will never forget," said Dana White, UFC president.
      The main event of an eight-fight card will feature Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes (28-3-0 in mixed martial arts) of Hillsboro, Ill., in defense of his title against undefeated top contender Sean Sherk (21-0-1) of Brooklyn Park, Minn. Hughes most recently defended his title November 22 at UFC 40: Vendetta at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with a first-round victory over Gil Castillo by referee stoppage due to a cut over Castillo’s eye. Hughes won the welterweight championship November 2, 2001, at UFC 34: High Voltage at the MGM Grand with a second-round knockout of the previous champ, Carlos Newton.
      In Sherk’s most recent UFC fight, he defeated Benji Radach September 27 by technical knockout at 4:16 of the first round at UFC 39: Warriors Return at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The victory made Sherk the number one contender for the welterweight belt. Other fights will include a welterweight match between Brazilian Amaury Bitetti of Rio de Janeiro and Romie Aram of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and a lightweight battle between Brazilian Hermes Franca of Boca Raton, Fla., and native Floridian Rich Cronkilton, who now lives in San Jose, Calif. The remainder of the card will be announced. The Biscayne Bay Marriott Miami Hotel will host the event and UFC fans will have the opportunity to reserve rooms at a special rate by calling 1-800-228-9290 and using the fan reservation code, UFFUFFA. Watch the UFC internet web site, www.ufc.tv, for more information.
      The UFC has sold out its last four fight shows June 22 at The Bellagio in Las Vegas, July 13 at Royal Albert Hall in London, September 27 at The Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and November 22 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The last show, UFC 40: Vendetta drew 13,707 making it the largest fight audience in Nevada last year. Its next fight show, UFC 41: Onslaught, which will be held Feb. 28 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. is almost sold out. The few remaining live event tickets are available at the Boardwalk Hall box office in Atlantic City, at all Ticketmaster locations and at www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets also may be ordered by telephone at 1-800-736-1420.
      With a sellout eminent, UFC 41: Onslaught also will be available on closed circuit TV for $30 per person at the Trump Plaza Theater. Tickets are available at all Tickemaster locations, ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-736-1420, at the Trump Plaza box office or by calling 1-609-441-6157.
      The Ultimate Fighting Championship, headquartered in Las Vegas, Nev., is the world’s leading mixed martial arts sports association. Owned and operated by Zuffa LLC, the UFC programs six live pay-per-view events yearly through cable and satellite providers. In addition to its U.S. distribution on iN DEMAND, DIRECTV, Dish Network, BellExpressVu and Viewers Choice Canada, UFC events are distributed internationally through British Sky Broadcasting, WOWOW, Inc. in Japan, Globosat in Brazil and Modern Sports and Entertainment in Scandinavia. UFC licenses video games for all major playing platforms through Crave Entertainment and TDK Mediaactive.

From Josh Hedges/Zuffa:

UFC Logo
$30 Tickets Now On Sale At Ticketmaster, Trump Plaza Box Office

      ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., February 26, 2003….With Ultimate Fighting Championship 41: Onslaught close to a sellout Friday night, Feb. 28, at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., the UFC and Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino today announced the eight-fight card will be available on closed circuit telecast starting at 10 p.m. EST in the Trump Plaza Theater. Closed circuit viewers will see the same live, pay-per-view telecast that will be televised internationally.
      Tickets, $30 per person, are now on sale at all Ticketmaster locations, ticketmaster.com, by calling 1-800-736-1420 or the Trump Plaza Theater box office at 1-609-441-6157. Doors open at 9 p.m. EST.

By Loretta Hunt

Mir-ly Getting Started
Las Vegas Heavyweight Ready to Take on Tank and Beyond

      Ever wonder what you’d be doing two days before a fight with Tank Abbott? It’s a thought that crosses my mind as I knock on Frank Mir’s hotel door to check in on his progress since we last saw him. It’s the Wednesday before the "big day" and the persistent breeze coming off the Atlantic City shore mixed with a light fall of flurries keeps everyone bundled up and stranded inside. Frank’s girlfriend Jennifer meets me at the door, five months pregnant and positively glowing. "Frank stayed up till 5:30 in the morning reading this book. He just couldn’t put it down," she hastily explains as she escorts me inside. Not exactly my first guess, but I surmise that things could be stranger. In the final hours leading up to what could become one of his career defining moments, Mir, like most of the other fifteen fighters scheduled to do battle at this Friday’s UFC 41, is simply relaxing. The hard part is done — the endless hours of drills and sparring are behind him. From here on in, it’s pure mental preparation.
      It might be a little because he has just woken from a nap, but Frank’s disposition is both tranquil and cheerful as he greets me. It’s been seven months since his last fight, where British veteran Ian Freeman overcame the young heavyweight with a beating that left him almost unconscious on his feet. In that time, Mir has also had to withdraw from his first MMA fight due to injury. [He was originally scheduled to meet Vladmir Matyushenko at UFC 40]. It’s a tall drink of water for any fighter to swallow, but these events already seem to be a memory as I start by asking him why he took this fight with Tank Abbott. "Every opponent in the heavyweight division has the ability to beat anybody, but what you have to gain through a victory means a lot," he answers. "Tank has the most to offer — the most name recognition out of anybody in the heavyweight division. Everybody knows who Tank Abbott is and that’s why I jumped on the opportunity as fast as I did."
      But why take a chance on a fighter like Tank, I think. Instead, I ask him why he believes Zuffa chose him as Tank’s first opponent, hoping he has "seen" what many are speculating about this match-up. He doesn’t disappoint. "It’s a contrast of styles," he points out right off the bat. "It could go either way. I think as far as Tank having an opportunity to win, Tank resembles the only loss I have — my last fight with Ian Freeman. If they feel there would be someone out there that would have a hard time with someone that is heavy-handed…" His voice trails off.

Frank Mir taking it easy
Don’t be fooled by his calm demeanor.
Mir says he’s ready for Tank.

      Mir is just one of those kinds of people where everything that comes from his mouth — even if it’s "bad" — just doesn’t sound that, well — bad. His opinions on Tank’s return to MMA are no different. "Sport-side, as far as pushing the level of competition in the athletes, I really don’t think it makes much of a difference with him showing up. It’s not something that people are going to emulate. You just have to be built kinda the way he is," he explains. "Marketing-wise, it’s awesome. We could have the most skilled fighters in the world, but if no one’s watching us, we might as well be fighting in someone’s backyard. People are going to watch Tank Abbott."
      And if there were any doubts as to just how seriously the Las Vegas native is taking his inevitable showdown with Abbott, Mir lays it all out on the line. "Realistically, Tank trains," he states without the least bit of hesitation in his voice. "He has martial artists in his corner. His physique has changed. He’s 250 compared to being 280. Obviously, he’s been conditioning. I know the difference between a marketing scheme and the truth. There’s no way that Tank Abbott is stepping into the cage without a lot training for this fight."
      So how has this reasoning affected Mir’s training for Friday? "I did a lot more boxing. My boxing shot up a lot. It’s a lot more intense, which was actually easier and harder in a lot of ways. It was harder as far as I had to be a little more conditioned and not as lazy, but easier in the fact that people commit more when they’re swinging so hard at me. When someone throws a real haymaker, it’s lot easier to get out of the way because you see it coming. Commitment is easy to see and easy to work with." Of course, Mir says, he has also continued with his submission work as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt under head trainer Ricardo Pires — but with a slight twist. "Ricardo explained to me that I needed to control people a little bit more. I was abandonly shooting submissions at people and was gonna miss and slip and leave myself open to people. My submission style was way too open. There’s a time for it and a time not for it, and Ricardo told me I was at fifth gear at all times. Now, I’ve trained my jiu-jitsu to where it’s a lot more controlled. Even when I’m training with guys that aren’t at my level, instead of making it a submission clinic, I go there and hold guys here and stall there while they throw punches at me the whole time."
      How important is this fight in Mir’s mind? "It’s extremely important. Business-wise, this is probably the most important fight I’ve had in my career. I’m the second to last fight. I’m in between the two title fights. It’s also good for me because now I’m getting to fight a style of opponent that people feel I have a hard time with. A victory will help to show how I’ve grown from my last fight."
      As a final thought, I wonder if I should ask Frank Mir if he feels ready for this fight, but quickly think better of it. It’s obvious from his answers that he is as ready as he will ever be — both physically and mentally. All that’s left are those few unpredictable minutes after the Octagon door closes on these two competitors. One thing is for sure though… at least one of these fighters is coming in a whole lot wiser than last time.

posted by Full Contact Fighter @ 8:00 pm
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