In the world of combat sports, a fighter is only as good as their last performance. However, there are times when that last performance can be misleading.

UFC featherweight Steven Siler started his UFC career 5-1, but he has lost back-to-back fights since, most recently falling victim to a TKO at the hands of Rony Jason at UFC Fight Night 38 in March.

“I think anyone who saw that last fight knew that was a fluke,” Siler told The MMA Corner. “The fight was definitely stopped early. I mean, I was landing an up kick when the ref stopped it, so how finished was I? I don’t really count it as a two-fight losing streak, and I think even everyone in the UFC sees that. But either way, I have to prove—I gotta get my way back into the top 15. This is definitely a must win just to climb the rankings.”

Siler (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Siler (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding Siler’s losses, any fighter who loses three straight in the UFC finds themselves on the chopping block. Siler is one loss away from finding himself in a tough spot, but that hasn’t changed his mindset heading into his bout with Noad Lahat on July 26 at UFC on Fox 12.

“Every fight is a must win for me,” Siler said. “I don’t want to lose any fight; I’m a competitor. I don’t want to drop in any rankings, so it’s really not any different than any other fight.”

Training at The Pit Elevated in Utah, Siler is confident that he will come in and perform well against Lahat.

“I feel like I am peaking right at the right time and I’m definitely not over-trained,” Siler stated. “I’m putting in the time and things are just going really smoothly right now.”

“Smooth” is a good place to be for a fighter who started his pro career with a record of 5-7, as Siler did. But don’t try to read too much into that record, because Siler did not train MMA for the first 12 fights in his career. MMA was something he did to make a little cash and get on local television.

“I had a buddy who went down when he was 16 to train in Brazil at Chute Boxe, back when Chute Boxe was the real Chute Boxe with Wanderlei [Silva] and Anderson [Silva], all those top guys in one gym,” Siler said. “When he came back, even though he was a bigger kid, he was younger than I was and he was beating my butt. So, if I was able to take a punch from him and he just got back from Brazil, then I wanted to see how I would do against someone my own size, plus be on local TV and make an extra 50 to 100 bucks a fight—I thought I was ballin dude.”

Once Siler got in the gym and started applying himself, things started to fall into place. However, even after rattling off an impressive winning streak, he didn’t see himself as a real pro until he got the call to compete in The Ultimate Fighter house.

“It didn’t click for a while,” Siler said. “I started training after those 12 just because that same buddy told me I obviously have the heart for it because I was going in the cage so many times. But I didn’t know what I was doing, so I was training just to kind of train. I went on a nine-fight winning streak after I started training, and I think somewhere in the middle of that I thought, ‘Man, I can really take this somewhere.’ I somewhat believed it, but I didn’t really believe it until I got the call back from The Ultimate Fighter. That’s when I knew they were finally going to accept me.”

Since jumping in with both feet, Siler is 18-5 and even owns a knockout victory over former WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown. As far as Siler has come, he knows that there is still a lot of work to do on his craft. With that in mind, he has surrounded himself with some of the best fighters in the world.

“Obviously, Court McGee, who won The Ultimate Fighter—he’s always there to lend a helping hand and share his knowledge with anybody actually; Court loves to talk,” Siler said. “He’ll share all of the information he knows. Ramsey [Nijem] was there if I needed someone to talk to. Brock Jardine, who has been in the UFC, or Josh Burkman—all those guys, they love to share knowledge. Especially at our gym, even though Ramsey is no longer here anymore, all of us are like brothers, so we still talk on a daily basis and share what we can with each other.”

Even though he’s had 35 pro fights, Siler is just only 27 years old. With a lot of good fighting years still ahead of him, Siler fully believes that he can be a title-caliber fighter someday.

Siler (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Siler (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

“I’m hoping to be in that title talk in five years,” Siler stated. “I’d only be 32. I think I’d be in the prime of my life and maybe get my man strength [laughs]. Hopefully title talk, because if I’m not there, then basically I don’t want to say [it’s] pointless, but it would at least make it worth something.”

Siler may still be a young man, but the fight game can be a cruel mistress. All it takes is an injury or a few bad performances and it’s over. Siler is focused on the fight game, but he fully understands that there will be a life after fighting, even if he doesn’t know what that is now.

“I recently had a son,” Siler said. “Just two months ago, and I have my wife, so [I’m] definitely thinking, ‘What am I going to do after fighting?’ I know that I have a family to provide for and responsibilities. I know I definitely won’t want to train people. I don’t think I need the gym life and I don’t have the patience to teach. And I have no schooling behind me, so what I’m going to do after fighting is stuck in my mind even though I have not figured anything out yet.”

Steven would like to thank his team from The Pit Elevated, his coaches and all of his sponsors. Follow Siler on Twitter: @Stevesiler

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.