James Irvin says he is feeling better than ever and cannot wait to get into the Octagon with Anderson Silva on July 19th.
Speaking to Fighters Only yesterday, he said that when UFC matchmaker Joe Silva offered him the chance to become Silva's first light-heavyweight opponent in the organisation, his first thought was "Where do I sign?".
"Seriously, I was afraid I would lose this fight," he revealed, before clarifying that he means lose "in the sense that it would be taken away and offered to someone else."
"For me it's a huge opportunity to be offered this fight, especially as I had to pull out with that foot injury recently," says Irvin.
"I was told that four other people in my weight class turned the opportunity down, I couldn't believe that.
"A lot of people talk to Joe Rogan in the Octagon and they say they will fight anyone but obviously that isn't true, it's all just bullshit. But I mean it."
Irvin is currently putting himself through a rigorous and punishing training schedule in order to be ready for his clash with Silva. And he is using every resource he can to aid his preparation.
"Training is going great. We are trying to cram, like, nine weeks into four, but it's going really good, I've called in all my favours, I've got all my coaches coming to me instead of me going to them.
"My conditioning is coming on really well, although I am going to need every bit of time between now and then, I'll be training up until the day of the fight."
At the time of writing, the betting lines have Irvin at +425 and Silva at -650, the widest margin since St. Pierre vs. Serra 1.
But Irvin is unfazed by the fact that the bookmakers aren't giving him a chance on July 19th.
"Being the underdog is the greatest thing ever," he claims. "I know everybody says that but for me it's true, I love to prove people wrong.
"I prove betting guys wrong all the time - look at my fight with Houston Alexander (an 8-second knockout), I was the underdog there too."
But confident as he is, Irvin does not underestimate the task that faces him. Silva in unquestionably the boss of a talent-loaded middleweight division and he has disposed of all sent to challenge him with almost contemptuous ease.
"I don't think we've even seen anyone even compete with him yet," Irvin says of Silva.
"Dan Henderson and Rich Franklin, these are world class guys. If you look at Franklin, he was a monster before Silva came into the UFC. But Silva obviously has his number!"
That number has consisted largely of jaw-shuddering knees delivered with ferocious vertical thrust.
Silva has one of the best MMA-oriented Muay Thai games in the sport and loves to pick people apart on the feet - although he has an equally dangerous (though underappreciated) ground game.
But while Irvin admits that the Brazilian "is more well rounded", his love of the clinch has been noted with interest.
"I don't think he ever looks to take people down, it seems he likes to fight in the clinch. Well, that is my favourite thing, so I expect there will be a lot of knees and elbows exchanged," is his prediction for how their fight will play out.
Anyone familiar with events in Irvin's career will know that he could legitimately be described as the unluckiest man in mixed martial arts, such has been his run of career-hampering injuries.
He grants the truth of this with a laugh.
"Am I the unluckiest guy in MMA? You got that right!" he says. But he is hoping karma will run in his favour when he faces Silva.
"The way I look at it, I've had so much bad luck, I have got to be due some good!"
Silva vs. Irvin takes place on July 19th at Ultimate Fight Night 14, which will be aired for free on the Spike network.
UK viewers can watch UFC: Silva v Irvin live on Setanta Sports 1 at 3am Saturday night, July 19th. (before you email us, yes, we know that is technically Sunday morning...)
- Font Size
- Reading Mode