Big Foot's big chance

Antonio (Big Foot) Silva

Antonio (Big Foot) Silva

NEIL SPRINGER, Special to the QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:36 PM ET

Antonio (Big Foot) Silva knows he has a golden opportunity.

The Strikeforce veteran was originally set to make his UFC debut against Roy Nelson. But when the world's largest MMA organization was forced to shuffle the deck after Alistair Overeem failed his pre-fight drug test, Silva found himself paired with former champion Cain Velasquez in the co-main event.

“It’s a dream come true,” Silva said through a translator on a recent conference call. “It’s a dream that any athlete in our sport wants to live out. Everybody can be sure that on May 26, I will give out a great fight.

“I’m very relaxed and feeling very well prepared. It’s a great opportunity that the UFC has given me.”

Silva gets the chance to make a statement when he meets Velasquez at UFC 146 in Las Vegas Saturday. The all-heavyweight main card will be headlined by a title fight between Junior dos Santos and Frank Mir.

A stellar wrestler with strong striking skills and a seemingly limitless gas tank, Velasquez poses a number of problems for Silva. In an attempt to find a plan that will neutralize the former champ's speed and agility, Silva enlisted the help of famed nutritionist and former fighter Mike Dolce.

“Cain Velasquez is a lighter and much faster fighter and is diametrically opposed to my strong points, which are my strength and my jiu jitsu,” Silva said. “So I am trying to come in a little bit lighter to be able to counter his speed.

“Things are going really well. For the first time ... I’m 270 pounds three weeks out of the fight. Things with Dolce are working extremely well. I’m feeling very light and fast.”

During his run in Strikeforce, Silva fought some of the best heavyweights in the world. He holds victories over Fedor Emelianenko and Andrei Arlovksi. However, in his last outing, Silva suffered a devastating first-round knockout loss to Velasquez's training partner, Daniel Cormier, in the semifinals of the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix. Cormier went on to batter Josh Barnett in the final a week ago.

Silva admitted to being depressed he couldn’t take home the tournament crown.

“Yes, I do feel disappointed,” Silva said. “But you only lose if you get up into the ring and fight.”

Though Velasquez has been training with Cormier three times a week, he expects Silva to have improved since the loss.

“(Cormier) told me some stuff that he felt while he was in there,” Velasquez said. “But on the other hand, his fight with Big Foot was so fast. We’re just expecting a different type of fighter than the one that fought that night.

“Big Foot is much better now. So that’s the type of opponent that we’re training for.”

Outside the cage, Silva spent the past few months trying to find the perfect camp. He left his home at American Top Team to join the Blackzilians. However, his stay was short-lived.

“The real issue was Overeem came over to the Blackzilian camp,” Silva began. “First of all, he was going to fight Junior dos Santos, who is a good friend of mine. I would never help a guy that was going to fight Junior dos Santos. Not only that, but with us being in the same division, we were on a collision course and it was just not comfortable for me.”

As a result, Silva returned to ATT.

“One of my managers is also owner of American Top Team,” Silva said. “He helped me bring in top wrestlers ... and some big strikers from Holland.

“It’s made things easier for me here. I don’t have to be away from my family during the camp.”

BIG FOOT’S BIG FIGHTS

Antonio (Big Foot) Silva will make his UFC debut against Cain Velasquez Saturday. He fought some of the best heavyweights in the world during his time in Strikeforce:

KO loss to Daniel Cormier

TKO win over Fedor

Emelianenko

Unanimous decision win

over Andrei Arlovski

Unanimous decision loss

to Fabricio Werdum

SWICK RETURN

After more than two years battling various injuries and illnesses, UFC welterweight Mike Swick will return to action against DaMarques Johnson.

The TUF veterans will meet at UFC on FOX 4 in Los Angeles Aug. 4. Former Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard is set to headline the card against Brian Stann, and Lyoto Machida will take on Ryan Bader in the co-main event.

A longtime training partner of Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch, Swick hasn’t competed since his submission loss to Paulo Thiago at UFC 109 on Feb. 6, 2010.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s most recent outing saw him fall victim to an armbar courtesy of John Maguire at UFC on FUEL TV 2 last month.

UFC on FOX 4 will also mark the return Josh Grispi, who will clash with Pablo Garza.

A WEC standout, Grispi was riding a 10-fight win streak before dropping a unanimous decision to Dustin Poirier at UFC 125 Jan. 1, 2011.

BOSS IS DISAPPOINTED

UFC president Dana White is “super disappointed” in Jon Jones.

The UFC light-heavyweight champion was arrested for DUI after crashing his Bentley into a telephone pole in Binghamton, N.Y.

Following the incident, White and UFC chairman/CEO Lorenzo Fertitta flew Jones to Las Vegas to discuss his future.

“It’s really sitting down and figuring out what is it you want to do,” White told the Boston Herald before meeting with Jones. “You’re 24 years old, you could be a force in this sport for the next 10 years and go down as the greatest ever.

“You can go the other way, too, and you can be the total bad guy, make a few million here or there and then go tell everybody to go, ‘F--- off.’ It’s no different whether it’s the UFC, boxing, the NBA, the NFL — it’s the guys who really focus and get their (stuff) together no matter how old you are, whether you’re 21 or 31. That’s what we’ve got to figure out, where Jones is at and what he wants to do.

“The road is littered with talented guys who didn’t live up to their potential.”

FREE SCREENING

MMA fans can catch a free screening of Jens Pulver: Driven in support of four worthwhile causes.

The documentary, which focuses on the first ever UFC lightweight champion, will screen at the Toronto Underground Cinema June 3

as a part of the Fight for the Kids charity event. Canadian fighters Mark Hominick, Sam Stout and Chris Horodecki will be in attendance and a raffle will be held to raise funds for four charities: Show Your Strength, a community-based organization that helps provide at-risk youth with access athletic and nutritional programs; the Shawn Tompkins Memorial Fund, which will be raising funds for the St. Leonard’s Society in London, Ont.; Seana’s Fight, created to assist with the medical costs of BJJ practioner Seana Rossi, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2006; and Junior Combat Classic, a youth-oriented martial arts program.

Fans can pick up tickets for the screening at showyourstrength.org. Those who can’t attend, but wish to contribute, can purchase raffle tickets on the site.

Show Your Strength director Matthew Shchukovsky told QMI Agency that Pulver’s story shows the importance of sports in a youth’s development.

“His story is a very inspirational story, how he used sports as an outlet to overcome the difficulties in his life,” Shchukovsky said of Pulver, who grew up in an abusive household. “When the news of his documentary came out, me and my team, we thought it was a natural fit. (We want) to showcase ... just how important sports are in a person’s development and how it can transform a person’s life from a negative into a positive.”

The event will also mark the launch of the Million in Motion initiative.

“It’s an awareness and fundraising program designed to get over one million youth over North America active, eating better foods and living a healthier lifestyle by 2020,” Shchukovsky said. “It’s going to be a call to action for every public and private school, every community organization, and any non-profit or charity that has to deal with at-risk youth. Every level of government, from municipal to federal.

“This campaign is a call to arms because unlike every other worthwhile cause — I'm not trying to demean any other causes — but the childhood obesity problem is the No. 1 problem facing kids. But we don’t have that awareness yet in the minds of the general public. We don’t have those marches demanding better resources for our kids. We don’t have that push to say the best way to get our kids active and healthy.”

 

 

 

 


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