"I was like, that big son of a b---- wants to fight me? Absolutely," Sylvia told MMA Fighting.
Sylvia, after all, felt he had nothing to fear. While his mixed martial arts credentials are beyond question, those of his opponent Mariusz Pudzianowski are essentially nonexistent; he is by anyone's definition a novice. Sylvia has as many UFC heavyweight title reigns (two) as Pudzianowski has total fights.
Yet the intrigue around the fight has slowly gripped the MMA world. While Sylvia is a known and proven commodity, Pudzianowski engenders different feelings from different people. Some consider him a prospect and others consider him a sideshow. There doesn't appear to be much middle ground.
The fascination is understandable. Pudzianowski has spent much of the last decade picking up, throwing and otherwise moving things that don't want to be moved, from trucks to logs to massive stones. He did it at a record pace. His five "World's Strongest Man" titles are a record, and he is considered by some to be the top strongman of all time. It should also be noted that Pudzianowski also previously trained in karate in boxing. How that all translates into MMA is anyone's guess, though the early returns have him at 2-0 in his pro career.
Sylvia, like millions of others, caught Pudzianowski's feats on late-night ESPN broadcasts, but wasn't yet aware that Pudzianowski was wading into the MMA waters when he got the call about the possible matchup, which he immediately accepted. Asked for his thoughts on the interest surrounding Pudzianowski, Sylvia is characteristically blunt.
"I think he might think he's better than he is," Sylvia said. "A lot of people are Monday morning quarterback types. They see the sport and say, 'I'm a tough guy. I can do that.' In his case it's, 'I'm the strongest man in the world. I can do that.' They just don't realize how tough the sport really is until they get hit.
"I'm looking forward to all those people who think he's the next big thing watching the fight Friday night and saying, 'Wow' afterward," he continued. "He's not on the same level as me."
Sylvia gets his shot at derailing the Pudzianowski hype train on Friday night at the Moosin: God of Martial Arts event at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass. The event will air live on pay-per-view.
Pudzianowski has up until now had just two fights. His first -- last December -- lasted just 43 seconds, ending in a first-round TKO over Marcin Najman. His second, just two weeks before his date with Sylvia, ended in a unanimous decision in favor of the Polish powerhouse. The Friday fight will be Pudzianowski's first foray into the U.S. MMA scene.
Sylvia has only been able to see the first fight. He said he briefly searched out the second fight online, but was unable to find it after the promoters managed to stop most online sites from posting illegal downloads and streams. Still, he has no concerns about losing his last chance to scout his opponent, saying that at least one member of his team has seen the fight, and he's comfortable with the information gleaned from that viewing.
So what did his corner think of Pudzianowski's second effort?
"That he has no cardio and that it was the most boring thing they've seen," he said. "I mean, it's pretty obvious what he is. He's aggressive, but there are a whole lot of holes in his game."
While it's true that Sylvia (25-6) is unlikely to see any technical details he's never seen before from Pudzianowski, it's also quite possible he has never before experienced the power that Pudzianowski wields. He, however, is unbothered by Pudzianowski's big edge, saying that he doesn't have the experience or skill set to capitalize on it.
"The only way strength transfers into MMA in any fight I've seen is guys like Brock Lesnar that are fantastic wrestlers," he said. "He's not a great wrestler. He doesn't know how to control guys with his hips and get underhooks and so on and so forth. I just think he's a big, strong guy who doesn't know what to do with it."
It should be noted, though, that Pudzianowski's second win came over Yusuke Kawaguchi, who was 11-1 prior to the bout. But while Pudzianowski had a 37-pound weight advantage in that fight, that's not going to be the case with the 6-foot-8 Sylvia, who is likely going to be the heavier man in the super-heavyweight collision.
"I think standup or on the ground, I have a huge advantage," Sylvia said. "I have 100 percent total confidence. It's like that in every fight I do."
Sylvia hopes that a few strong appearances will eventually land him back in a major organization. Since parting ways with the UFC, this Moosin bout will be the third promotion for which he's fought, and he's also had several other bouts fall through.
"I just want to get on top again, and beat some top level guys," he said. "I want to fight three or four more years. I love to compete and love the sport. I still love it."
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