In just a few short days, we'll be treated to our second UFC card of 2014. This one is a beefier affair with more recognizable talent than the first, and will thankfully be held at a normal, American-friendly hour. I love an Asian card as much as the next person, but I don't miss the days of having to get up before the chickens to see a card. But I digress.
UFC Fight Night 35 is stacked with fighters that are right on the brink of real, standout success, as well as long standing, crowd favorites. The match-up between Sam Sicilia and Cole Miller is a perfect example of that. Miller has been a staple in the UFC ranks for nearly seven years, with 15 fights during that time.
Sicilia has only been with the organization for two years, and holds four fights to his credit under the Zuffa banner. With a win over the veteran Miller, he can possibly break through to see fights set with those Top 15 guys, and begin an earnest climb towards the title.
In a recent interview with MMA Sentinel, Sam discussed his upcoming fight with Miller, how Dana White saved him, the sponsor landscape, the do or die situation he's found himself in and the tale of a brawl that had teammate, Julianna Pena right at the center of it. Here's what he had to say:
Dana White Saved My Ass
Dana White saved my ass. After my fight with Blanco, he came and saw me in the back and told me, ‘Don't be down about that fight. You're an animal. That was a great fight.' I told him I was just worried about my job, and he said, ‘Hey man, we're not getting rid of you. You keep fighting like that, you'll always have a job here.'
Two days later, I got cut by Sean Shelby, because on paper, it made sense, I guess. It went public, circled back to Dana, so he got hold of us and said, ‘You're not cut. I told you we weren't going to do that. You need to win your next fight, but you're not cut.' That was the weight of it, and that's what I put on old Godofredo [laughs].
I'm actually used to fighting taller guys, I mean, my main training partner is Michael Chiesa, a tall, lanky guy, as well. Most of it is about not being shocked by how far away they can hit you from. He can probably jab me from damned near across the cage. You've got to be all the way out or all the way in there, and brawling, so I've got to be either past that reach or all the way inside, throwing heat.
There's no bad blood between us, no ill will or words exchanged. At first, I thought there might be, after his stuff with Conor McGregor, but there hasn't been anything at all. He's just promoted the fight in a respectful way. We've both shut our mouths, trained and now we get to go fight. I don't think he has to hype this one up.
My last fight, I beat Pepey, and I did it pretty quick. I mean, I could beat that guy 10 out of 10 times. That's a guy I should beat, because he's not really any good. Cole is a huge step up in competition for me, though. He's the first vet I will have fought, so I'm taking it very seriously. He's had like 14 or 15 fights just in the UFC. This is a fight that I have to get past to be somebody in the UFC.
Talking Smack To Hype A Fight
Honestly, I think I'd be really good at it, but I just don't want to be the jackass that starts it [laughs]. You can tell when it's just puffed up, because it's very WWE'ish and you kind of have to sell it that way. I try to stay out of it. Besides, all of my opponents have only spoken Portuguese up to this point, so I couldn't do it, even if I wanted to.
This is the first fight that I've had like ‘haters' on; I guess that's what you'd call them. I've had all these Portuguese tweets directed at me in the past, which is easy to ignore when you don't know the language, but this time, I've got a bunch of Cole Miller fans that are constantly commenting on everything I do, which is kind of a pain in the ass, but that's not Cole himself, so I don't blame him for their actions.
He's going to have a lot of support, and so he should. He's been in the UFC forever, and we're fighting in Georgia, where he's from. Obviously he's going to have his fans, but guys that do that -telling me how terrible I am- that makes me want to finish the fight, just so I can tweet those bastards back [laughs].
I haven't had any problems with landing good sponsors at all. My manager takes care of it, and it all goes pretty smooth. I signed with Alchemist, and the manager I got that takes care of me, Nima (Safapour), pretty much makes it where I don't have to do much. You know, I'm a meathead; I don't like doing paperwork and all that stuff. He makes it where I pretty much just have to show up and fight. After my fights, the sponsor checks just roll right in. I've never had any trouble with any of that.
Do Or Die
Where I was in my last fight, it was a must win situation. You know, I even got cut for like a day, so I needed that win, bad. That was very important for me, and it was a huge win that allowed me to stay in the game. Getting this turnaround fight after that is pretty rad, too.
Every fight is the biggest fight, the fight of your life. You have to stay in there. I'm not done competing, so the pressure to win is huge. If I ever got cut, and I wasn't able to compete against guys like Cole Miller, I'd feel pretty crappy about my career.
I got in this to fight the top tier guys. Fighters like Pepey are high risk, low reward. Nobody over here knows who he is. He's just some Brazilian here. You beat a guy like Cole Miller, everybody knows, and that will keep me on track. All the guys that beat him have gone on to do great things. It's a test I need to see where I'm going to be.
Julianna Pena & The Brawl
It was Halloween, a while back, and me and Mike Chiesa were out, dressed as lumberjacks -shocker, I know- and Julianna came out with us, too. She has this zombie hand, back scratcher thing. We were outside this bar, and somebody was walking by, and she touched him with the hand. She didn't do anything forcefully or threateningly, she just touched him with it. There's a college that's local to us, and there were some players out there that night. Anyway, one of them like linebacker tackled her to the ground, hard. The guy shouldered her to the ground really roughly.
This whole big fight breaks out all because she touched somebody with a back scratcher. She's on all fours, trying to get back to her feet, and this guy keeps pushing her down. She was trying to get up, and he's knocking her back down. At this point, I lost it, so I started throwing at these guys, because there's several of ‘em fighting now. Somebody grabbed the back of my collar, and I'm swinging, and I'm missing. Then, I started landing, and handing out naps. Mike ended up choking out a guy, and this thing turned into an all out brawl, just a disaster.
The cops got called and were on their way; we could hear the sirens. So we sprinted back to our car, but Mike wanted to go back and get his friend. His shirt was torn to shreds, so I told him to change it, so it wouldn't be obvious he'd been fighting. He grabbed another flannel, which made no sense at all [laughs]. Mike almost got in trouble, but the cops looked up the other guys' records, and they had a few felonies between them, so nothing came of it for us.
That whole situation went from zero to a bomb dropping in like five seconds. Juli got slammed down to the ground, and she goes crazy, like Flava of Love type crazy [laughs]. It was pretty funny, now that I look back on it. It really was a crazy night, all over something really innocent. The dudes were walking in, she said hi to them and touched one on the hand with the zombie hand back scratcher, and just got blasted.
It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen. She was just being a cute girl, and the guy went berserk. I don't know if he was wasted, or what, but it was nuts. It was kind of like Anchorman, with dudes jumping in from everywhere. Well, that escalated quickly [laughs].
You can follow Sam via his Twitter account, @SamSiciliaMMA