Alessio Sakara Looks Back at Tumultous Two-Year Stretch, Ahead to Brian Stann
Alessio Sakara could use a break.
Consider Sakara's last two years: he pulled out of his UFC 116 fight against Nate Marquardt after his mentor and coach, who he considered his father, passed away. He pulled out of a UFC 118 fight due to an injury. He was taken off UFC 122 on the morning of his fight against Jorge Rivera after suffering from flu-like symptoms. When he was ready to fight again last March, he was forced to fight little-known Chris Weidman on a couple weeks notice after his original opponent Rafael Natal pulled out of the fight. Weidman dominated Sakara on the ground en route to a unanimous decision. And then prior to UFC 133 last August, the Italian fighter tore his ACL, forcing him to be sidelined for several months.
So just like that, the 30-year-old Sakara hasn't won a fight in over two years and hasn't fought multiple times a year since 2008.
On Saturday afternoon in Sweden, he will try to get back on track against Brian Stann at UFC on FUEL TV 2. MMAFighting.com recently spoke to "Legionarius" about his recent troubles, fighting Brian Stann and his dream of fighting on a UFC card in his home country.
Ariel Helwani: You had to pull out of your UFC 133 fight against Jorge Rivera due to a knee injury. What exactly happened and how are you currently feeling?
Alessio Sakara: When I was sparring at American Top Team, I tore my ACL while attempting a single-leg. It was a very bad situation because I was supposed to fight Rivera three times. I came back to Italy and recovered with the best medical team in Italy and now my knee is 100 percent. I am very happy. Everything is good in my leg.
How frustrating have the last couple years been for you?
Every time I'm preparing for a fight, I have an injury or a bad situation in my home. My father died and every time I have bad luck. But I'm coming back 100 percent and I'll give the best fight for the UFC, my fans, my family.
How did you deal with your father's death?
Now, it's passed, but before it was a very bad situation because he was my trainer and father too. When I was young, I stayed in a home with this coach that was with me my whole career, so it was a very bad situation. But now he passed, it's life. Everything is good now.
How did he die?
He died because he was very old.
Do you feel like you must win this fight in order to remain in the UFC?
I never think about if the UFC lets me go because my job is to fight. I want to think only in the present. My present now is April 14. I don't want to see the future or the past. Sometimes a fighter loses, but if he gives 100 percent and people like his style, maybe the UFC doesn't let you go.
Why do you think your fight against Chris Weidman last year was so one-sided?
The opponent changed two weeks before the fight and I had a different strategy. He is a very good wrestler, an All-American, and I needed to train more in takedown defense. But it's no excuse. He won because he had a great strategy and I lost because my defense wasn't very good.
What did you think Stann's performance in his last fight against Chael Sonnen?
I watched every one of Brian's fights. Chael Sonnen had a very good strategy and Stann had an awful performance. Maybe because he's not very good at jiu-jitsu or wrestling, but every fight is different. I don't want to think on April 14 about the Stann that fought Sonnen. I want to think about my job and I want to strike with Brian Stann. If it goes to the floor, I'm very happy because I know I'm better than him in jiu-jitsu. I train a lot in jiu-jitsu. I never use my jiu-jitsu in the UFC because I like striking. I train jiu-jitsu a lot at American Top Team. I'm a black belt and I have trained for six years in Brazil and two years at American Top Team only with black belts.
Stann said recently that he expects to face a more elusive version of yourself on April 14. What do you make of that?
I want to strike with Brian Stann, but every fight is different. Maybe he wants to go to the floor or maybe I want to use my jiu-jitsu. But my style is striking, and I want to strike with Brian Stann.
Do you have a lot of friends and family attending the fight since your home country of Italy is so close to Sweden?
Only my uncle and my best friend. My wife and mom don't watch me live, only television.
Why not live?
(Laughs) Because I'm my mom's son and she's afraid. It's normal. Italian mothers are very protective. If you have a little injury or sick, she thinks you died. It's crazy.
Do you think you will suffer from cage rust on Saturday considering you haven't fought in over a year?
I haven't been very lucky over the years, so I am used to this. Every time I have a fight, there's always something happening, like the loss of my father or my knee injury, so I'm used to this.
Would you ever consider going back to boxing?
I'm done with boxing. I train boxing a lot because I love to box because it was my first sport, but I only focus on MMA training.
UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta told us recently that they are hoping to put on an event in Italy in the near future. How popular is the sport there right now?
The UFC is very, very popular now in Italy. Every time I walk on the street, people recognize me and talk about the next fight. I would be very happy if the UFC came to Italy. It would be very exciting.
Do you look at a situation like Alexander Gustafsson headlining this card in Sweden and think that if you go on a winning streak you could maybe headline an event in Italy?
Yes, that's my dream. It's possible; it depends on me. If I do a good job now for the UFC, I could maybe be in the main event.
Thiago Silva Looking for Forgiveness, or at Least a Little Understanding
STOCKHOLM -- From somewhere behind his dark sunglasses on Thursday afternoon, Thiago Silva allowed himself just enough vulnerability to own up to what he’d done and seek forgiveness. It has, after all, been a year and change since he was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for submitting a drug test sample that was "not consistent with human urine." That’s a long time to think about his mistakes, and to come to terms with the fact that he made a few along the way to the one big one.
"What I learned from that is really hard to explain," Silva told MMA Fighting following Thursday’s pre-fight press conference to promote his main event bout with Alexander Gustafsson at the UFC on FUEL TV 2 event this Saturday night. "Everybody makes mistakes. I made my mistake, and I just tried to put everything away and move forward and train right. I just learned again how [to] train right...how to put my body to work."
The question is, has the Brazilian light heavyweight learned this lesson too late?The struggle with the back problems is at least something most people can sympathize with. The injury kept him out almost exactly a year after his decision loss to Rashad Evans, and he said he couldn’t bear to think that it might also knock him out of the UFC 125 tilt with Brandon Vera.
So Silva took a shortcut. He admitted to taking "injections in my back and spine" that would allow him to stay in the fight, and then attempting to hide that substances in his NSAC-mandated drug test. He paid the price with a year-long suspension. Now, a little over 16 months since his last time in the Octagon, he gets the unenviable task of taking on a hot young prospect in front of what is likely to be an unfriendly crowd at Sweden’s first UFC event.
Whether it’s a welcome back part or a set-up all depends on who you ask, but Silva remains unsurprisingly adamant that neither the layoff nor the location of the fight will play any role in its outcome.
"Everything is about your mentality," he said. "I think like, he can have the whole country behind him, screaming his name, but inside the cage it’s just me and you."
And his back problems? Those are all gone now, he insisted. Even in a 12-week camp, he claimed it never became an issue.
"Right now, I’m 100 percent healthy," Silva said.
Then again, what else is he supposed to say? Before the fight, everyone is healthy. No one thinks ring rust or a hometown crowd will be a factor. It’s only afterward that the tunes seem to change.
For Silva, however, there’s more at stake here than just a win or a loss. There’s the issue of image rehabilitation, of getting back to where he was before this rough stretch that started with a loss to future champ Lyoto Machida and eventually led to a victory overturned thanks to a faulty drug test. Whether fans are quite as eager as Silva is to put it behind him remains to be seen., but he knows it probably won’t happen overnight.
"It’s really hard, because it’s not my decision," he said. "It’s up to them. I’m here to do my job. I’m sure the fans, they’re going to understand."
And sure, sometimes that’s how it works. Just don’t count on it being these fans, in this city.
Dat wordt niet makkelijk voor Siver, die gast is echt groot voor FWUFC on FUEL TV 2 weigh-in results: Headliners on weight, Siver a pound heavy
STOCKHOLM – MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) was on scene and reporting live from today's official UFC on FUEL TV 2 fighter weigh-ins.
Today's festivities took place at Stockholm's Ericsson Globe Arena, which also hosts Saturday's event.
The weigh-ins went off without much of a hitch – aside from Dennis Siver, who's making his featherweight debut, coming in a pound heavy on his first attempt.
Light heavyweights Alexander Gustafsson and Thiago Silva, who headline Saturday's event, each weighed 205 pounds. Their bout and the rest of the main card air on FUEL TV (3 p.m. ET/noon PT) following prelims on Facebook (12:30 p.m. ET).
Gustafsson and the rest of the night's Swedish fighters all received big ovations from today's packed crowd.
Siver has two hours to get from 147 pounds to 146 pounds.
The UFC on FUEL TV 2 weigh-in results included:
MAIN CARD (FUEL TV)
- Alexander Gustafsson (205) vs. Thiago Silva (205)
- Alessio Sakara (186) vs. Brian Stann (185)
- Siyar Bahadurzada (170) vs. Paulo Thiago (170)
- Diego Nunes (146) vs. Dennis Siver (147)*
- DaMarques Johnson (171) vs. John Maguire (170)
- Damacio Page (135) vs. Brad Pickett (136)
PRELIMINARY CARD (Facebook)
- Papy Abedi (171) vs. James Head (170)
- Tom DeBlass (205) vs. Cyrille Diabate (206)
- Francis Carmont (186) vs. Magnus Cedenblad (185)
- Yoislandy Izquierdo (155) vs. Reza Madadi (155)
- Simeon Thoresen (170) vs. Besam Yousef (170)
- Jason Young (145) vs. Eric Wisely (145)
* - Has two hours to make weight
hoe laat begint dit event?