BOSTON – Tim Sylvia is trying to see to it that 2010 turns out better than 2009 did. It hasn’t been easy.
The former UFC champion, struggling to rehab his name after coming out-of-shape and ill-focused into his nine-second knockout loss to 48-year-old boxer Ray Mercer last June, said he’s had three scheduled fights fall through in the past four months. Proposed dates for the Dream promotion on New Year’s Eve and in April were nixed, as was a fight against Wes Sims in March in Ohio.
On Monday, wearing a Boston Red Sox cap and a laid-back expression, Sylvia stood on a stage in the basement of a bar next to Fenway Park posing for a collection of Polish-speaking media. Next to him, wearing a tight black shirt, black pants and a tan, was Mariusz Pudzianowski, the five-time World’s Strongest Man whose crude but entertaining MMA debut in December drew exceptionally high television ratings in Poland.
“He’s a big boy, but I can tell he’s scared,” said Sylvia, 34, who hadn’t heard of Pudzianowski until he was offered the fight. “He wouldn’t stare at me straight on, eye to eye. He kept turning away. So he’s definitely worried already.”
The 320-pound Pudzianowski seemed to have sized Sylvia up for the first time as well.
“Tim is a big man, so there will be a lot of targets to bash up,” he said in remarks in Polish that were translated for the roughly 20 people attending the press conference.
The heavyweight face-off marked the launch of the promotional push for “Moosin: God of Martial Arts,” a May 21 card scheduled for the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass., which is 40 miles west of Boston. Ohio-based promoter Corey Fischer, also a former Toughman promoter, said the event will be available on pay-per-view on all cable and satellite systems and will be distributed by Integrated Sports Media of New Jersey, which mostly promotes boxing pay-per-views.
The event, which is being promoted as the first major sanctioned MMA card in Massachusetts, has not yet been approved by the state athletic commission, which formed March 1. Fischer said “all the paperwork’s going through right now” and “will be done by this week.” Sylvia said Monday he didn’t believe he was yet licensed to fight in Massachusetts, while Pudzianowski has a fight for the Polish KSW promotion on May 7. Asked about the risk fighting two weeks before the Sylvia match, Pudzianowski said: “I’m crazy. I like challenges.”
The event was originally scheduled for April 23 but was postponed. An agreement is in place with the 15,000-seat DCU Center, which is promoting the card on its Web site and had a representative speak enthusiastically at the press conference.
According to press materials, the promotion is financed by “Mr. Oh,” an affluent Korean businessman who owns a large Tae Kwon Do promotional company in South Korea. Moosin has promoted MMA shows in South Korea and the United States. Fischer said he met Pudzianowski’s representation through his connection with Moosin, which plans an expansion into Poland.
Fisher said he met Oh after accompanying former Toughman star Eric “Butterbean” Esch to a Moosin fight in South Korea. Esch later headlined a Moosin card in Alabama, and is set to face former Boson Bruins hockey enforcer Lyndon Byers on May 21. Fischer said the super-heavyweight bout won’t be on the pay-per-view and is only to raise money for charity. In remarks at the press conference, Byers said the money would go to the family of a slain Boston police officer.
“It’s just to raise money, they’re not going to go to kill each other,” Fischer said. “That’s not the intentional at all.”
The pay-per-view will also feature a handful of UFC and PRIDE veterans. Travis Wiuff will face Mu Bae Choi, Travis Lutter will face east coast Gracie Fusion fighter Rafael Natal and Yves Edwards will face WEC veteran Mike Campbell.
The promotion also said it is close to finalizing a deal to match top female fighters Tara LaRosa and Roxanne Modafferi, likely at a 130-pound catch-weight. Moosin is awaiting clearance from Strikeforce to use Modaferri.