They say that opportunity doesn't knock twice. Well, for some people in this world they do. When Chuck Liddell was forced to withdraw from his fight at UFC 85 against Rashad Evans, James Irvin stepped in to take his spot. For Irvin, this was a big fight coming off of his win over Houston Alexander. An opportunity to fight a top ranked contender like Evans was a great opportunity. But following an injury in training, Irvin had to withdraw from the bout.
Luckily for him, the Ultimate Fighting Championship decided to put a free event together for Spike TV on July 19 to counter the debut event of Affliction.
At the promotion's 14th UFC Fight Night, Irvin will have the opportunity of a lifetime when he will take on the man highly regarded as the world's top pound-for-pound fighter, Anderson Silva. Silva, the UFC middleweight champion, will be making his light heavyweight debut, testing the waters at 205 pounds. However, Irvin will look to take the wind out of his sails.
MMAWeekly Radio caught up with James Irvin to discuss his preparation for his upcoming fight. "Everything is going good. I'm just here training my ass off for July 19."
This Spike TV special was put together very quickly and Irvin is taking the fight on relatively short notice. When he was approached with the fight, he did not hesitate. "First off, they just said Silva," he explained. "So, I thought they were talking about Wanderlei. We've been asking to fight Wanderlei [Silva] since he got here. When he said Anderson, I was like 'whoa.' I was like, 'I'm not an '85er. Is he coming up to my weight class?' He said he was coming up to my weight class. From then on, I've been like 'where do I sign?'"
A lot of respect has to be given to Irvin for taking this fight. Fighting the top fighter in the world on short notice takes guts. However, he feels fortunate that he was able to accept the fight, especially after he was forced to withdraw from his fight with Evans.
"I was really looking forward to the Rashad fight just because I got to fight a Top 5 guy like him, especially since I was working myself up the ladder. But to catapult him to Anderson Silva, the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter on the whole planet... Dana [White] seems to reward people who fight hard, especially ones that knock people out.
I fight hard, so when I go out there, I'm going to put it all on the line and try my hardest. The last few people to fight Anderson went out there with good intentions and tried to work their game plans and it didn't work out. I think Dana thinks that I'm going to go out there and swing for the fences and put up a good fight."
Irvin is a gamer and is sure to put on a fun fight win or lose. He realizes how great this opportunity is, and he plans on making the most out of it.
"I don't know what I did to get so lucky," Irvin said graciously. "I mean this is the biggest fight in my entire life. The only fight that could be bigger is if someday I get to fight for the UFC light heavyweight championship belt. Until that happens, this is the biggest moment in my whole life.
"I just can't thank Dana White enough and Anderson Silva. I mean, he's a world champion. He has nothing to prove and he has everything to lose in this fight. I'm just so grateful that he's giving me the opportunity to compete. One thing that I will guarantee, out of respect to him, is he's going to get the very best of me. I called every favor, every coach, every training partner that is pushing me to the limit right now. My coaches are putting me through the ringers right now."
The one main thing that Irvin believes differentiates him from everyone else that has fought Silva is his dynamic striking and power. He believes it will make a significant difference in the fight, whereas opponents like Franklin and Leben had difficulty striking with Silva.
"They weren't real multi-dimensional strikers. They're real straight forward. Franklin is an awesome striker, but he just didn't match up well with Silva. Mine is definitely more flashy, but at the same time, I'm more Muay Thai based. I'm definitely more of a smash-mouth type of fighter. I'm trying to smash you in the mouth before you smash me."
While Irvin believes that he has solid Muay Thai, he knows that that this fight could go to a few different areas. However, he is confident on his feet with the Brazilian. "This isn't a Muay Thai fight by any means, but he usually turns it into whatever kind of fight he wants to. When we get in there and it's a straight stand up fight, when we clinch up and knee the hell out of each other, I have a much bigger advantage."
The clinch seems to be where most of Anderson Silva's prey has landed in their losing battles. Irvin has noticed this and has made sure that he is prepared for it. "He looks like he always grabs clinch," stated Irvin. "The only thing he's probably worried about is my right hand or my 1-2 weapon. I'm sure he has 215, 220-pound training partners over there. I don't know what kind of strikers they are."
Even though many people may feel that Irvin is a severe underdog, he is looking to prove the critics wrong. He wants to show the world that he won't go down easy and is ready to be among the elite fighters in the world.
"You want to bet against me, go ahead. I have nothing to lose in this fight. This fight is a win-win fight for me. I'm not going to go in there and be anyone's punching bag. I'm not gonna go in there and get myself pushed up against the fence and get his knee in my face and let him bang me up over and over again. I have no problem taking two of his to get one of mine. If we get into a slugfest going back and forth, I guarantee you I'm going to win."