In basketball, they call the NBA "The Show." Most sports have their "show." It's where the elite gather, where those athletes who have conquered every level of excellence within their sport compete against one another. In mixed martial arts, the UFC is "the show" and it's just as hard to stay in the UFC as it is to get there.
Ogden MMA pro "Super" Steven Siler has made it to "the show," and he's determined to stay there. So far, the UFC tenure of the feathweight, 20-9, has been a success. On Dec. 3, Siler beat Josh Clopton by unanimous decision and on March 2, in Sydney, Australia, Siler defeated Cole Miller by decision. In both fights, Siler showed a cage generalship and fighting maturity that's rare for fighters his age, 25. The wins have earned the former "The Ultimate Fighter" team member another UFC appearance June 22 in Atlantic City. He'll meet undefeated Joey Gambino, 9-0,
"Being in the UFC is like being in the NBA or the NFL except less people make the UFC, so it's an honor and a dream come true," says Siler, who says his goal in MMA is the same as other mixed martial arts pros, "to become UFC champ." The fight against Gambino is not much different from other major bouts Siler has witnessed. He faces the task of derailing a hot prospect and moving his own career forward.
"I know he (Gambino) is a wrestler who cross trains between Tri Star gym in Canada and a New York gym but still haven't seen very much of him," he admits. Siler's 20-9 record is a tad deceiving. A natural athlete who come to the Top of Utah as a child from Anaheim, Calif., he was unable to compete in wrestling in high school, something he badly wanted to do, due to grades. After graduation, he took a safe job at Hill Air Force Base but circumstances led him to a shot at MMA
"I worked at Hill shortly after I graduated because that is where my mom, brother and mom's boyfriend worked and it was a good-paying job that I was gonna settle for, but once I defeated (fellow Utahn) Travis Marx on the Tapout TV MMA show ... I decided I was going to see if I could do (this) and see how far I can take it if I put all my efforts in it."
Like other highly competitive sports, it took time to progress. After two years, Siler's pro record was 5 wins, 7 losses. But he continued to get better. In his last 17 fights, he's logged 15 wins and two losses.
"He's really underrated and you can never count him out. He has incredible cardio and a nasty guillotine. He's an exceptional grappler who knows how to trick you into a position and manipulate situations," says local MMA pro Sean Powers, 6-2, who runs Legion gym in Layton. In a recent autism fundraiser at Legion, Siler and Powers, who are friends, competed in an exhibition MMA match for the crowd.
If Ogden's Siler beats Gambino in a couple of weeks, it will take him closer to a championship fight. The 5 foot, 11 inch 145-pounder wants to be close to a UFC title fight a year from now. Until then, he'll continue training hard at Utah-based Pit Elevated to stay at a level that keeps him in "the show."
"We got a great solid group at the Pit Elevated. From the UFC we got me, Court McGee, Ramsey Nijem and now Brock Jardine. We also got former UFC star Josh Burkman who is making his way back hopefully soon. We also got Rad Martinez who is in Bellator (another MMA league) and a lot of up-and-comers training every day helping us out."
If Siler's win streak continues, Utah could soon see a local fighter get a UFC championship shot.