Mixed martial artists come from every corner of the globe, bearing a variety of styles. Sometimes, fighters are products of their environment, favoring disciplines prevalent in the country or state from which they hail. Various regions of the United States are considered factories for great fighters, though that certainly is not the case with each state. In this weekly Sherdog.com series, the spotlight will shine on the best mixed martial artist of all-time from each of the 50 states. Fighters do not necessarily need to be born in a given state to represent it; they simply need to be associated with it.
He was one of the most unlikely titleholders in Ultimate Fighting Championship history. Sylvia transformed himself from a supposedly oafish, unathletic giant into a two-time heavyweight champion and one of the most reliable knockout artists of his generation. “The Maine-iac” was 13-0 with nine knockouts when the UFC first called his number in 2002.
Sylvia stopped Wesley Correira in his Octagon debut at UFC 37 and then knocked Ricco Rodriguez unconscious five months later to capture the UFC heavyweight crown. The Ellsworth, Maine, native successfully defended his title against Gan McGee at UFC 44, only to be stripped after failing a post-fight drug test. Sylvia was given a chance to reclaim his championship at UFC 48 in June 2004 but had his arm snapped by Frank Mir at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
Spawned by the famed Miletich Fighting Systems camp, Sylvia won the heavyweight championship for a second time at UFC 59, where he took out Andrei Arlovski with first-round punches. Two successful title defenses against Arlovski and Jeff Monson followed before he was upset by Randy Couture at UFC 68 in 2007. Sylvia eventually parted ways with the UFC, lost to the great Fedor Emelianenko under the Affliction banner and spent the rest of his career on the regional circuit. He announced his retirement in 2015, finishing with a 31-10 record.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Marcus Davis, Mike Thomas Brown, Tim Boetsch