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Despite 'disappointing' end to career, Tim Sylvia would have liked a second crack at Frank Mir

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Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn't the ending former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia had envisioned for himself, but what he can do? He's being told this is the end. If he wants to fight it, it'll cost time and money and well, he just doesn't have the energy for that.

"To tell you the truth, I'm getting old, man," Sylvia told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour.

Sylvia was set to face Juliano Coutinho on Saturday's Reality Fighting 53 card at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncassville, Connecticut. After weighing in, however, the Mohegan Department of Athletic Regulation - the regulatory body overseeing the fight - refused to clear Sylvia after an MRI produced disconcerting results.

For 'The Maine-iac', this means the end of his 16-year journey in the sport has almost certainly come to a close.

"That was kinda going to be my retirement fight," he said. "It was on the East Coast and I have a lot of friends and family there and stuff. I kinda pointed out to them this was going to be my retirement fight.

"This is the second fight I've had problems where, the fight before this I was supposed to fight in Maine and I hurt my knee. Now, this MRI. What's really irritating is I could've fought, but the athletic commission in Connecticut, they're a pain in the ass. They saw a suspect of concussions or whatever. I'm like, 'Yeah, I've been fighting for 16 years, played semi-pro football for three years. I've had some concussions.' I think if you look at any fighter after 16 years, he's going to have that on his brain."

According to Sylvia, at 9 p.m. the night before the fight, he was told a neurologist with the athletic commission wanted to see him in the lobby to speak with him about his MRI results. While they couldn't say for certain precisely what was wrong, the MRI revealed white spots that indicated some form of brain trauma. As a result, he was deemed medically ineligible to compete the following day.

"It just said they saw white spots on my brain," he explains. "That's caused from fighting or concussions or trauma to the head. Like I said, any other fighter's going to have the same thing after he's done this for 16 years.

While the doctor couldn't be certain about what it was, Sylvia says they told him it wasn't blood.

"That was what happened and they said they weren't going to clear me to fight," Sylvia laments. "To tell you the truth, I'm pretty much going to be done, anyways. This just kinda put the nail in the coffin."

While Sylvia is largely upbeat about both his past and future, this wasn't the end he had hoped asked for or what he feels he deserves.

"Of course, it's disappointing," he acknowledges. "I'm just at a point where I still love to fight. If there's someway we could start a league where former guys that used to fight that just on agreement will step in the cage without training and fight, see what happens, let's do that. But the eight-week training camp, I just can't do anymore. It's just too hard on my body. I can't do it. I'm getting too old."

The now super heavyweight Sylvia says this doesn't have to be the end if he chooses to fight the commission's findings. The problem, he says, is doing so is laborious and could end up where he already finds himself.

"I gotta spend another $1500 on an MRI just to say...I don't know. We'll see what happens," Sylvia says. "Right now, I'm retired. The athletic commission is going to send all my MRIs to a neurologist here in Davenport, Iowa who is a friend of [manager] Monte [Cox]'s and some other guys that I know, have a look at them and see what he has to say."

Part of Sylvia's frustration is his view that Coutinho was "the perfect opponent" for him. He says his opponent was a "BJJ guy" who he couldn't see throwing a lot of punches. Sylvia acknowledges there's risks, which is why he liked his chances in the fight. He also says he's wise enough to know he shouldn't pursue boxing or kickboxing.

That said, while he claims to understand the risks associated with combat or contact sports, he thinks his exposure to damage has been fairly limited.

"No, never," Sylvia says regarding whether he's suffered concussion symptoms. "The only concussions I know of...I had the one with Arlovski the third time him and I fought. And I'm assuming once you get knocked out, that's a concussion. Ray Mercer, so I'm assuming two. I did a lot of hitting when I was in football and I've done a lot of heavy sparring, so I don't know if I had any concussions any time in during sparring that I didn't see any symptoms from it. I've been rocked before in a few fights and stuff like that. I don't know if that's some of the things that causes some of the trauma on the brain that comes up in the MRI or not. I really couldn't tell you."

For the most part, Sylvia says he's doing fine in his life. He doesn't weigh 371 pounds, he claims. He says it's closer to 355. As for why there were reports about his weight at that number, Sylvia says the commission scale stopped at 350 pounds and he jokingly remarked about being 371 previously, so they marked him down as such.

Is he worried about his health? Not exactly. Sylvia says this is what happens when it's this time of year.

"It's hunting season, man. I haven't trained," he notes. "I eat biscuits and gravy in the morning and eggs and we have bacon. We make deer chili. It's just hunting season since October. Just haven't had a chance to workout."

Sylvia claims he's currently part of a hunting show that could land on a variety of channels catering to the hunting community. He also held a job this summer as a construction project manager. "No physical labor," he says. He's not starving for money, although he continues to work to support his family.

And if he can't continue fighting, will he somehow plan to stay involved in mixed martial arts as a coach or trainer?

"No, not at all," he confesses. "I saw what Pat [Miletich] went through and I see Spencer [Fisher] trying to do it again. It takes up a lot of your time. We don't have anymore what we used to have in Iowa. We don't have the talent there anymore. There's so many other better gyms that have a lot of great talent and all the up-and-comers are already spoken for."

For all of his accomplishments in the Octagon - including winning the UFC heavyweight title twice - there isn't anything he'd do differently, he says. For the most part, he's very much at peace with his career.

"I don't know if I have a biggest regret, to be honest with you," he claims. "There's some fights I'd like to take back. Other than that, I don't know if I really have any regrets."

And which fight is that? You guessed it: a rematch with Frank Mir. The two fought for the vacant title at UFC 48 in June of 2004 where Sylvia famously lost after having his forearm broken by an armbar attempt.

"That one was the one left I would have liked to have done. I would've liked to have been on a UFC main card against Frank Mir or something or another shot against [Antonio Rodrigo] Nogueira.

"There isn't a day that goes by on my Twitter where some fan wants to see that fight," he says.

Much like his career now, though, Sylvia gets praise for what he's done and his desire to keep on even when he can't or shouldn't or can't be allowed. If there's one thing that can be said for Sylvia, he never allowed limits to stand in the way of his ambition.

"Whenever I do appearances, people always talk about that fight and how great or stupid - whatever you want to call it - I was when I didn't tap and wanted to keep fighting."