Tim Sylvia can only be described as ‘physically imposing’, ‘a seven foot monster’ or ‘f—–g huge’. He’s thirty years old (thirteen years younger than Couture), six foot eight and weighs 255lbs (116kg). His fight record is just as imposing with 25 wins and 2 losses.
Many people think that Cro Cop would be a good match up but Sylvia’s not looking that far ahead right now, “Don’t even ask me, I’m not looking past Randy. If we’re talking about in the future I need to prove myself to the rest of the world. They have Cro Cop ranked number two and me ranked number five and me going out there and knocking him out would bump me up.”
Whilst the internet rankings clearly matter to Sylvia, Dana White’s views on them are somewhat different, “Those aren’t really rankings! That’s bull—- anyway, those rankings are all bull—- anyway it’s f—–g internet knuckleheads. What’s happening now is that Tim’s finally in a position with us going international to go after the best international talent and a lot of those questions are going to be answered now.
There’s this mystique about fighters in Japan being bigger, better, making more money, all of it’s bull—- and it’s just a big myth. Now we’re at a place where we can prove it. Look at Nick Diaz. Nick Diaz was cut by us because he lost so many times and he just beat Gomi who everybody thought was unstoppable. All the internet websites thought he was unstoppable and the best guy in the world at the weight division, not only did Diaz beat him but BJ Penn destroyed him.”
With Dana climbing down from his soapbox and taking a sip from the decaf handed to him by an anxious assistant, conversation moved to all of the criticism that had been directed at Sylvia and how he thought that it affected him. Couture had pulled no punches in his pre-event video breakdown of Sylvia’s fight again Jeff Monson and how he felt Sylvia had played it too safe.
“It has definitely affected the way I’m approaching this fight. Randy has really put a fire in my arse, I’m taking it kind of personal and I’m not going to back off Randy for that belt.”
Not only are people more than happy to criticise Sylvia, they’re also more than happy to underestimate him and many feel that if it goes to the ground (it’s well known that Sylvia prefers to hit) he’s certain to lose, something that Sylvia is aware of, “I know people understate my skills on the ground. Randy and I have trained together and I have put him in trouble on the ground a couple of times and I think in the fight it won’t be any different. The fact that Randy is a better wrestler is definite but I think I have better skills in the clinch than Randy.”
With everyone seemingly rooting against Sylvia, it doesn’t seem as though motivation is an issue. With people like Randy actually coming out of retirement in order to fight him he explains “I’m very fortunate for that reason. Every time I fight there’s something that motivates me. I haven’t got into a slot where no fight means something to me. Every fight means something to me and I have something to prove in this fight.”
One of the reasons that Sylvia has so many people rooting against him is his attitude. With hindsight, did he have any regrets as to how we was presenting himself to the public?
“When it comes to flipping off the fans it was to two fans in particular. There were some people behind my father who were heckling me, and I knew that it was irritating my father, so I gave those two the finger and it looked like I was giving the whole audience the finger when I wasn’t.
I have a problem in that I’m very outspoken and I shoot straight from the hip, what I’m going to do is try to count to three before I do anything.”
With thirteen year’s age difference between the two fighters, and Randy proving that even OAPs can be valid fighters in the Octagon, conversation moved onto whether Tim thought he would be able to keep going as long as Randy, or indeed longer.
“I don’t plan on fighting as long as Randy. Everyone’s different, I would like to get out of the UFC by age 35. I have some other things to work on. If I retired at 35 and a year later somebody offered me a million dollars to fight, then I would probably do it. It’s a fact that when you’re a fighter you like to compete. Things always come about and the money gets better and you still want to compete and prove you’re the best in the world.”
Finally, what worried him most about Couture?
“His will to win. Randy always finds a way to win. His wrestling’s also off the chart.”