Tim "The Maine-iac" Sylvia successfully defended his UFC Heavyweight Title by defeating Andrei Arlovski at UFC 61 on July 8th. Sylvia spoke with MMAWeekly last week about his three fights with Arlovski, how he matches up against the top Pride heavyweights, and the possibility of a unification bout.
MMAWeekly: First of all, congratulations on defending your title against Andrei Arlovski. Have you recovered physically? At the post-fight press conference, you were limping a little bit.
Sylvia: Oh yeah. I was a little banged up after twenty-five minutes, but I’m fine now.
MMAWeekly: The first two fights with Arlovski ended early. Were you a little surprised that this one went the distance?
Sylvia: Yeah. I think we just both learned so much from each other that we were both really cautious. I just executed a better game plan than he did, and was able to come off with the victory.
MMAWeekly: You both looked tentative throughout the fight...
Sylvia: After I hurt him in the first round really bad, he didn’t want to get hit by punching.
MMAWeekly: You were the underdog in all three of the fights with Arlovski. Putting together back-to-back wins, do you feel vindicated in any way?
Sylvia: I would like to think so, yeah. I knocked him out the second time, and really put a beating on him the third time, so I’d like to think that I’m the best there is. I don’t know why they picked him over me.
MMAWeekly: Is it correct that you requested for him to get an immediate rematch?
MMAWeekly: Was that a little bit to dispel the critics?
Sylvia: Exactly. I mean, that, and I didn’t want him to get on a roll again. Arlovski’s mentality... I knew what type of guy he is. He’s the type of guy with that bully mentality. When things go his way, things are great, but as soon as you stand up to him, he folds. That’s what I did.
MMAWeekly: How did your game plan change from your first two fights to that third match? It looked like you were counter punching a little more...
Sylvia: That, and I wasn’t as slow with my jab. I established power first in the second and third fight. The first fight, I just came out there and was poking my jab, and he just countered me with the overhand right and submitted me. You give credit where credit is due. He had a great game plan. As soon as it hit the ground, he submitted me. He went after a leg. Now, I didn’t have a good game plan the first fight. I really wasn’t ready to fight Arlovski. I just thought, I had the fighter’s mentality, "I’ll knock this guy out. I knock everyone else out." He was a lot tougher than I thought he was, and he was a lot faster. Going into the second fight, I gave him the respect that he deserved, knowing that he hits hard and is a great submission guy, and he moves really well. So, I went out there and we established a great game plan, and it worked... and in the third fight, same thing. We developed a great game plan, and he was just a little bit more cautious and didn’t commit on things, so we weren't able to land the big punches that I wanted to land.
MMAWeekly: You definitely staggered him back in the first round, and it looked like it could end early, but you showed some patience there. You didn’t rush in and make the same mistake he did in the last fight.
MMAWeekly: Let's talk about what you have in the UFC as far as for the future. You’ve beaten pretty much everyone that there is in the division. Frank Mir got a win over Dan Christison. Is that a loss you’d like to avenge?
Sylvia: I would give anything to fight Frank Mir. I hope he can put a couple of more wins together. That way, we can fight down the road. Jeff Monson gets a title shot next, so it’s not fair to Jeff. Maybe [Mir] can get one or two more wins together, and I can get a chance to fight him again.
MMAWeekly: You mentioned Jeff Monson getting the next title shot. What do you think about the match-up?
Sylvia: It potentially could be a tough fight if I don’t train properly, but I have a great training camp and some great coaches. We’ve already established a great game plan. We’ve talked about it already. We’re bringing in some guys to assimilate Jeff Monson, and I’m going to go out there and knock him out in the first round.
MMAWeekly: With the possibility of Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva fighting, how long until we see a heavyweight unification bout?
Sylvia: I tell you what, I was drooling when I saw that. Hopefully, they’ll bring Fedor [Emelianenko], and he and I will get it on.
MMAWeekly: Looking at the Pride heavyweights, how do you think you match up with some of them? We’ll start with Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.
Sylvia: I think I would beat Cro Cop. My hands are better than his. He’s got great kicks, but I’m tall, so that’s going to eliminate a lot of power he generates from his kicking. So, I’ll just stay close enough with my hands that hopefully I can beat him that way.
MMAWeekly: What about Josh Barnett?
Sylvia: Barnett, same thing... I’ve just got to make sure that I keep the fight standing up. He is very good on the ground. I’ve just got to stay strong with my takedown defenses, and I know my hands are better than his, so just work my hands and knees in the clinch, and stuff like that.
MMAWeekly: How about Mark Hunt?
Sylvia: He’s a really big, strong, tough guy. I’d probably put Mark on his back.
MMAWeekly: What about Fedor?
Sylvia: It’s interesting. The only style we haven’t seen Fedor fight yet is a tall striker who is good at takedown defenses. I would try to keep the fight standing up with him and utilize my hand skills, and hopefully the reach would give him a tough enough time where he wouldn’t be able to hit me.
MMAWeekly: Not long ago, Jerome LeBanner called you out. Do you think that fight will ever happen, or has that fight just faded away?
Sylvia: To be honest with you, I hope it doesn’t happen because I think he is a jackass. He needs to earn his way into MMA, not just being a great kickboxer and trying to call out the best guy in the UFC and trying to get a fight. I hate sh-- like that. That’s how Wes Sims got fights. He’s a horrible fighter, Wes Sims was, yet he ran his mouth so much that they gave him a chance. They found out how horrible he was. He never won a fight in the UFC. He sucks. I’m not saying Jerome LeBanner is horrible, but I don’t like the way he is going about trying to get fights. I just don’t like that way. I think you need to earn your way into the UFC. It’s the Super Bowl of mixed martial arts. Therefore, you need to get MMA fights. Once you get recognized as an MMA fighter, they invite you. They say, "Hey, we’ll give you a shot in the UFC." He wins two or three fights in the UFC, he gets a title shot. If he earns his way, I have no problem fighting him. I just don’t think I should fight him because he’s running his mouth.
MMAWeekly: We’re kind of entering a new era of mixed martial arts, or I think so. We’re seeing Pride fighters like Wanderlei come over. We’ve seen UFC fighters go over there, and K-1 fighters come in. Do you feel like the sport is completely opening up for the fighters with opportunities to fight everywhere?
Sylvia: I think that’s the way it needs to be, yes, to establish who are the best fighters in the world. They allow boxing to unify belts, so why can’t we?
MMAWeekly: It was announced again that your teammate is fighting Georges St. Pierre in a rematch. What are your thoughts on that match-up?
Sylvia: I like Georges St. Pierre. He’s a great fighter. It’s going to be an awesome fight. It’s going to be an exciting fight, but I just think Matt is on the top of his game right now, and I think he’s going to get the best of Georges, get in his head, and do the same thing he did last time.
MMAWeekly: Thanks man, and good luck in the future.
Sylvia: All right, bro. Thank you. Bye.