Can Tim Sylvia Make His Way Back To The UFC?

Two and a half years ago Tim ‘The Maine-iac’ Sylvia was a former two-time UFC heavyweight champion with just three losses (to respected fighters Randy Couture, Andrei Arlovski and Frank Mir) on his 27 fight record, and was preparing for an interim title shot against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

His fall from this lofty perch to rock bottom was remarkably swift.

A third round submission loss to Nogueira was just the start, followed by the fighter leaving the UFC and then racking up further defeats to Fedor Emelianenko in 36 seconds, and most embarrassingly, being KO’d by former boxer Ray Mercer in just 9 seconds.

The last two results in particular cast Sylvia as something of a laughing stock with some fans and since then he has been slowly attempting to get back on the horse and salvage his reputation.  A win over Jason Riley in September of ’09 was the first step, followed by a victory over former World’s Strongest Man Mariusz Pudzianowski earlier this year.

All the while Sylvia has stated his desire to return to the UFC, noting that it was, “best for business.” It’s fair to say that UFC president Dana White isn’t a big fan of the former champion however, and a win over Pudzianowski wasn’t going to change that.

“Who cares? Know what I mean?” White said at the time on, ‘The Daily Line’ show. “Nobody cares about Tim Sylvia and he beat up some big muscle guy from somewhere. Back from McDonalds beating up some big muscle dude. I mean, c’mon. Come on.

White had a point.  Sylvia needed to take a step up in competition if he wanted to be taken seriously, and so we arrived at last night’s PWP: War On The Mainland event in which he took on another UFC veteran in Paul Buentello, who had just ended a brief second spell in the promotion.

In the end it wasn’t an inspired performance, but Sylvia dominated the action and got the job done inside two rounds, becoming only the second man to KO the durable Buentello in over 40 professional fights.

It’s not a result that’s by itself is going to have Dana White banging down his door with a UFC contract, but it was certainly a step in the right direction.

So is there a chance Sylvia could still get back into the UFC?

It’s certainly not something that can be dismissed entirely. Let’s face it, if other former UFC fighters like Buentello, Phil Baroni and Frank Trigg can be given a second chance then it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Sylvia could do likewise. He has burnt a few bridges along the way though which makes life more difficult.

Next up is a fight with yet another familiar name from the UFC’s past, Pedro Rizzo.  Though the Brazilian has undoubtedly seen better days he is known to be someone that Dana White respects, and a win over him would be a useful addition to his CV.

If he can do so, and can successfully get his weight down below the 265lb weight limit (he weighed in at 275lbs for last night’s fight, 30lbs lighter than he had been against Pudzianowski just months earlier), then I don’t think it would hurt to bring him back into the fold.

He could be put to good use though, opening up potential rematches with the likes of Nogueira and Mir, or serving as a gatekeeper for up and coming talent like Stefan Struve, Brendan Schaub and Todd Duffee.  The heavyweight division has completely transformed since he was at the top of the ladder though, and it’s hard to see him mounting a serious title challenge against the likes of Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez.

Personally I think it’s more likely that he’ll eventually end up in Strikeforce where he could certainly be used to bolster their heavyweight division in much the same fashion as former foe Andrei Arlovski has done.  With Alistair Overeem back in the fold and Fedor apparently eyeing a new contract the promotion they could certainly use more opponents with name recognition to keep them, and other challengers in the division, occupied.

Whether it’s with Strikeforce or UFC there undoubtedly does still appear to be some light at the end of the tunnel for the 34 year-old former champion, but he has to tread carefully as he moves forward as another bad loss on his record could send him straight back to square one.


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