Monday, November 21, 2011

Behind the Cage: Steven Siler

Steven Siler is a 24-year-old Orem-based fighter who participated in 11 amateur fights before even stepping into a gym for training. He began his training more than six years ago in Ogden then moved to Orem to train at Throwdown (now The Academy), and hasn’t looked back since. Since he began training, Siler has gone from a local champion to a UFC fighter, which is the ultimate goal for MMA fighters. Siler made his mark on the UFC world by trying out four times for Spike TV’s reality show “The Ultimate Fighter.” After making it on the show, he was sent to live in a house in Las Vegas with 16 other fighters and no connection to the outside world. Since the season of “The Ultimate Fighter” he is on is still airing, Siler cannot fight, but he is hoping to be able to fight in the Ultimate Fighter Finale on Dec. 3; you have to watch the show to find out if he makes it to the fight.

Becoming a UFC fighter • “UFC to MMA is like NBA to basketball or the NFL to football. UFC is the mainstream of MMA. When I got on the reality TV show, that’s what the show is, is to be a UFC fighter. You’re on TV for 12 to 13 weeks straight where everyone gets to see you every week. The reward is a UFC contract, which is every fighter’s dream. I tried out four times just to make it onto the show and I have been fighting six years just to make it into the UFC. The perks of being in the UFC is that they pay the most, you get the most recognition and fan support. This has been a dream come true for sure.”

Misconceptions about UFC fighters • “It’s definitely not as easy and glamorous as people make it look. They think everyone in the UFC is getting a big-time paycheck and living this awesome life, and in reality, you don’t really make that much. You only have three or four fights a year and unless you’re the big, big names, you don’t really make that much. The majority of fighters are struggling every day and just trying to get by. Training takes a toll on your body, it hurts. Every day you wake up in pain, just trying to make it and hoping you have a fight coming up. Now that I am with the UFC, I could lose one fight and they would cut me. It’s definitely a stressful lifestyle.”

The draw to watching MMA • “It’s a fast-paced sport that two people are just in there trying to go at it. And people love violence. People love seeing people get knocked out. The majority of time there are a lot of knockouts and people like seeing that.”

Favorite part of being a fighter • “I feel like the lifestyle [is my favorite part], I am able to choose when I wake up and train. I get to get my aggression out. Since I started fighting I am not an angry person at all. I have had people try to pick a fight with me on the street or try and throw a punch at me and I’m just able to block and be like, ‘Dude, I’m not going to fight you. There’s no point in trying.’ I have no anger anymore. I don’t yell as much and I’m just a very calm guy ever since I got into the sport.”

His future in fighting • “I hope to be going till I am 40, but we will see how my body holds up. I don’t want to be 50-60 years old and not be able to walk the way I should. I want to make sure to stay healthy at all times and make sure that I can do things for my kids, when I have kids.”

The fighter’s reputation for partying and violence outside of the cage • “There are fighters who might get into drugs or might drink a lot at a party or things like that, but it’s not all fighters. I rarely drink. If I drink, I feel horrible the next day and that makes it harder for training. I haven’t been in a street fight since I started doing this. A lot of guys that fight are probably the nicest people I have ever met. They’re very calm and relaxed. A lot of times when people do find out you’re a fighter, that’s when they try to size you up and try to fight you. I have never engaged in it. I have nothing to prove — a lot of fighters I know try to keep it quiet and try not to stir anything up.”

(Photo by Francisco Kjolseth for Now in Salt Lake)

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