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Sylvia Faces Harsh Reality Outside of UFC

By on April 6, 2010

tim sylviaTim Sylvia may never have been the most popular fighter in the sport, but there were times when he was among the highest-ranked.  As a former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Sylvia was basically on top of the world as recently as a few years ago, but a huge payday that netted him $800,000 to face the world’s top-ranked heavyweight ended up being the fight that continued Sylvia’s fall out of the elite ranks of the division.

The loss to Emelianenko was Sylvia’s second in a row, though he still was slated to fight again in the cash-hemorrhaging promotion at some point.  Of course, a quick opportunity to cash in against a former pro boxer went horribly as an out of shape Sylvia lasted only nine seconds while standing in front of Ray Mercer, who knocked out the former champion.

Now, Sylvia is on the outside looking in as the UFC has its best heavyweight roster ever and Strikeforce builds upon Emelianenko and a number of young stars and talented veterans.  Outside of those two organizations, it’s difficult for a fighter in Sylvia’s position to rebuild his career.

It’s difficult for any fighter to make a name for themselves outside of the few major promotions that the world has to offer, but it is doubly hard for heavyweights.  With a dire lack of talent available outside of the UFC and Strikeforce, even Dream wouldn’t have been able to offer Sylvia much in the way of heavyweight opponents (other than the possible exception of Josh Barnett).

Meanwhile, Sylvia needs a seriously impressive run to return to prominence, as neither Dana White nor Strikeforce’s Scott Coker is in a hurry to sign the fighter.  White in particular seems disgusted with Sylvia, as he was quickly beaten by a fighter he has not been able to sign (Emelianenk0) and then embarrassed by a ridiculously one-dimensional opponent (Mercer).  White probably does not appreciate that a former champion of his division has performed in such a fashion, and is likely still not over Sylvia making the decision to fight for his one-time competitor, Affliction.  In fact, White says Sylvia will have to win “The Ultimate Fighter” if he ever wants to get in the UFC again.

Sylvia beat Jason Riley last September, who was a decent enough opponent but not nearly enough to prove that Sylvia has what it takes to make a run at the top fighters in the world.  Since then, three scheduled fights have fallen through for him, and his next bout will be not against an up-and-coming heavyweight or a veteran opponent, but a former “World’s Strongest Man” competitor in Mariusz Pudzianowski.  If you’re scoring at home, Sylvia went from fighting the likes of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fedor Emelianenko on pay-per-view events to appearing in small local shows and fighting in novelty bouts in the space of two years.

At 34 years old, Sylvia faces the challenge of regaining the respect and confidence of fans and promoters, all while facing the likes of Pudzianowski and Wes Sims, who Sylvia is slated to face in June.  It won’t be easy to string together an impressive enough run of victories when the vast majority of respected heavyweights are signed to major promotions, and if Sylvia makes another slip-up, as he did against Mercer, he will have to start all over again…if recovering is even possible.

Though I’m not a huge fan, I’ve always been a supporter of Sylvia.  He may not have been the most exciting fighter, but he worked hard and was worthy of more respect than he got when he was the UFC Heavyweight Champion.  However, his troubles over the last year or two have shown how quickly one can go from relative stability and six figure paydays to small regional shows and fights against former strongmen.  What a jarring experience it must be, indeed.  If Sylvia wants to finish his career in the limelight, he’s got a long road ahead of him.

E-Mail Jon Hartley

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