After reading MMA Mania’s recent interview with James Irvin, we have new respect for the Sandman. The dude is just plain ballsy. Not only did he accept the UFN 14 fight against Anderson Silva when four others refused it, but the man actually has the stones to explain why Silva really isn’t that much of a threat. For a guy selected to be the Spider’s first roadkill en route to a light-heavyweight title, Irvin’s taking his long odds in stride…
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Well you don’t get Rashad Evans but now you’ve got UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
James Irvin: Yeah that’s a pretty big jump, huh? I can’t think of an opponent outside of Rampage or Liddell — maybe even Fedor that would be more shocking. But hey, Dana White seems to repay the people who fight hard for him…I’m gonna stand there and trade and I’ll take one to give one. In this case I might have to take two to give one.
Can you take two from Anderson Silva? Can anyone?
Absolutely. He has one or two tools that are problematic [ed. note: understatement of the decade?] but I know what they are. I think he’s more of a right-handed guy but he stands in a southpaw stance. He likes to lead with that left leg and he’s comfortable now. He’s used to getting guys on the defensive. There’s nothing he can do that I’m afraid of. I’m not afraid of him taking me down — that would be a shame, wouldn’t it? He’s a showman. He moved up to 205 to make a point. Maybe he feels like he ran through the 185 division and now he’s gonna start picking off the 205 guys.
And you’re not taking that lightly I assume.
No way! If anything I kind of feel like a representative of the light heavyweight division. I want this guy to know there is a reason we have weight classes.
I suppose Irvin can have such a cavalier attitude when he knows that he’ll be rewarded no matter what the outcome (i.e., whether he’s hospitalized after the fight with Silva, or if he actually dies in the cage). Not only does Dana White repay guys who fight hard, he also shows love to “real fucking fighters.” And Irvin definitely considers himself a member of that fraternity:
What is your contract status with the UFC?
I have one more fight on my contract after this fight (with Silva) so usually we start negotiating after that. I’m sure it will weigh in my favor that they had four people turn down this fight with Anderson before I accepted.
Wait a second, four people were offered this fight and said no?
I was very surprised myself and to be honest I was kind of let down by one or two of the names. I thought they would have done very well in this fight.
Wow, who was the most surprising name?
Uh, well most of them are buddies of mine so I’m gonna leave that be. I’m sure it will come out over time. Not that it really matters, all that matters is who said yes. I didn’t hesitate for a second. It’s funny I had actually talked to (UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva a week prior to all this and I told him I want to fight Wanderlei Silva and he told me Wanderlei wasn’t fighting until December. I told him, in fact I begged him for a top ten opponent. A week later I’m fighting Anderson Silva.
If your career has suffered as many unfortunate setbacks as James Irvin’s, you know that playing it aggressive (and a little bit insane) is the only way to stay afloat in the UFC’s marquee division. There are about a dozen guys ahead of Irvin in the light-heavyweight food chain, but he can carve a niche for himself as the guy who will literally fight anybody. If he can survive a round with Anderson Silva and put in a somewhat impressive performance, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets fed to Lyoto Machida next. Because hey, nobody else wants to take that fight.
“For sure, I turned down the fight with Machida,” Vera said. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m down to fight Machida but not in my first time cutting down to 205 on four weeks’ notice. I want to be ready for Machida. That bastard’s good. I want to make sure I’ve got good sparring and a good game plan for Machida.
“Machida’s not somebody you can just jump in the cage with and fight. I don’t care who you are; if you think you can just beat Machida because you’re tougher than him, he’s probably going to whoop your ass. … He doesn’t go in to destroy people and finish them. Man, you can’t hit him, and he just keeps touching you. People just get frustrated and pissed off. So, I did turn down the fight with Machida, but I’m down for sure to fight Machida, given good time.”