When former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia decided to pack his bags and leave the UFC to sign for Affliction it appeared that he had burned his bridges with the promotion that made him a star.

Subsequent losses to Fedor Emelianenko and Ray Mercer didn’t help matters, and UFC president Dana White was among many in the sport who began to view Sylvia as a laughing stock.

“Are you kidding me, he seriously wants to return to the UFC?” asked White after Sylvia’s 9 second KO defeat to Mercer. “Look, he just got beat by a near 50 year old in under 10 [expletive] seconds, how do you expect to be taken seriously after that?”

15 months later, and after stringing three victories in a row over Jason Riley, Mariusz Pudzianowski, and most recently former UFC fighter Paul Buentello, it seems that White’s stance on the Sylvia situation is softening…slightly.

“I don’t know, Tim would have to win some key fights to work his way back into the UFC,” White tells the 98 Rock Baltimore radio station as he begins a whirlwind media tour to promote this weekend’s UFC 118 event.

“Obviously beating Paul Buentello isn’t it, you know? And our heavyweight division is so good right now. So, I don’t know, we’ll have to see what the future holds.”

He’s not exactly welcoming him with open arms here, but even offering Sylvia a chink of light at the end of the tunnel comes as somewhat of a surprise given the UFC president’s reputation for holding a grudge, and apparent dislike for the former two-time champion.

Next up for Sylvia is said to be a fight with another former UFC veteran Pedro Rizzo in what could be another solid stepping stone towards a return to the big stage.

There were some other interesting tidbits of information during the interview, here’s a few of the highlights:

  • The winner of Kenny Florian Vs Gray Maynard will fight the winner of UFC 118’s headline bout between BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar.
  • Dana White doesn’t expect to see Chris Leben back until the start of 2011. That appears to rule him out of a possible fight with Vitor Belfort in November.
  • According to White, Rich Franklin’s arm is not healing as well as expected and he’s going to be out for a while longer.
  • Despite rumors that BJ Penn could still move up to welterweight soon, White says he feels that the former champion is too light for that division.

Listen to the full interview via the player below.