Sylvia not scared

JOSE RODRIGUEZ -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

Every plot needs a villain.

And if UFC heavyweight champ Tim (The Maine-iac) Sylvia has his way, he'll be playing spoiler to Hall-of-Famer Randy (The Natural) Couture's storybook comeback.

"I give Randy as much respect as I give anyone -- maybe a little more," Sylvia said.

"Randy's a stud. He has been around a long time and he has done a lot of things but I'm going in there as well prepared as I can be and I'm looking to knock him out."

Couture, arguably the most popular fighter in UFC history, retired following his second consecutive defeat at the fists of light-heavyweight champ Chuck Liddell last February.

The 43-year-old, who is the only man to have held belts in both the heavyweight and light-heavyweight divisions, became a cage-side fixture at UFC events, often adding commentary to pay-per-views as well as analysis for The Fight Network.

But the itch to return to the cage was unbearable for the chiseled grappler and he has set his sights on Sylvia.

Couture has criticized the Maine giant's last two performances, saying Sylvia looked as though he was fighting to not lose, rather than fighting to win.

"I don't think that's true," the 6-foot-8 Sylvia said.

"I go out there with a game plan and I follow the game plan to a tee. Jeff Monson was scared to engage, Andrei Arlovski was scared to engage. You can't chase a guy around the ring the whole time. I can't do anything if guys don't want to fight."

Sylvia points out Couture didn't exactly mop the mat with his opponents' blood in his past two heavyweight outings.

"Let's be honest, Randy's recent track record against heavyweights is that he lost to guys that are only 240 or 250 pounds," Sylvia said. "I cut to make 265, so I'll be at the fight at about 275."

Sylvia said Couture is more comfortable taking the fight to the ground than standing and trading blows, something that plays to Sylvia's strengths.

"He doesn't do well against heavy strikers, he's been knocked out in his last two fights against Chuck," said Sylvia. "Now he's going against a huge heavyweight and a big striker."

Couture is only one part of a double-pronged attack on Sylvia's heavyweight belt.

The UFC also has signed former Pride superstar Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic, who is rated by many fight pundits as the No. 2 heavyweight in the world behind Pride champ Fedor Emelianenko.

But an inevitable showdown with the Croatian is the furthest thing from Sylvia's mind at present.

"I think Cro Cop's really tough," Sylvia said. "He's someone I've enjoyed watching for a long time. But I'm not looking past Randy."

Couture and Sylvia will headline UFC 68: The Uprising on March 3.


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