Upon viewing Steven Siler stepping into the cage, one must remember the phrase "never judge a book by its cover."
While he may look like the chess club president on the outside, Siler makes up for it with pure tenacity once those cage doors close and he gets an opportunity to go to work.
Training out of The Pit Elevated in Utah, the "Super" fighter has rocketed off to a quick 3-0 start in his UFC career, including a huge upset victory over the always dangerous Cole Miller in his second UFC bout.
After scoring his first UFC stoppage in his last bout, a first round guillotine choke against Joey Gambino at UFC on FX 4, Siler is expecting his opponents to take him a bit more seriously now.
He's slated to face his toughest test to date against durable wrestler Darren Elkins this Saturday night (Nov. 17, 2012) in the opening bout of the UFC 154 preliminary card in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Siler spoke to MMAmania.com during a guest appearance on The Verbal Submission about earning respect in the featherweight division, the strange start to his MMA career and how he plans to deal with Elkin's wrestling skills in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You have been a very pleasant surprise in the UFC featherweight division, off to a quick 3-0 start thus far. Do you think you've caught people off guard?
Steven Siler: I think I've always surprised people who watch me fight. I hear all the time that I look very unassuming, where I look like the school nerd, like I should be getting picked on and to win the fights I have, I've surprised a lot of people in the MMA world.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Have you ever thought about trying to look more menacing, like growing a beard or getting a crazy devilish goatee, or do you like being unassuming?
Steven Siler: If I could grow a beard, I would. I've been trying to grow facial hair for god knows how long. It's not coming. It really doesn't matter. I like how I look. The good boy, young guy look works for me so I'm gonna keep it the way it is.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Honest question, when was the last time someone ID'd you for anything?
Steven Silver: Every time. I don't think I can go to Vegas without being ID'd or anything. I can't buy a drink and I expect it. I don't look anything above 20 so it works.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know you're nickname is "Super" Steven Siler but some people tried to coin a new nickname after you beat both Micah and Cole Miller, started calling you "The Miller Killer." What did you think of that nickname?
Steven Siler: I definitely got a good laugh from it. I definitely thought it was a good nickname, but unfortunately, there's no more Miller's left to kill in the featherweight division so I don't think the nickname works so well anymore. I'm hoping to kill everyone else in the division, not just Millers.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You train out of The Pit: Elevated and that is an extremely underrated gym right now. You've got Josh Burkman who just scored a big win at World Series of Fighting over Gerald Harris and of course Rad Martinez, who has advanced to the finals of the Bellator season seven featherweight tournament. What's the mood like at the gym? Are you guys on cloud nine right now and just feeling the momentum?
Steven Siler: It's definitely a great place to be at. We have a great environment. It's not like most gyms. At other gyms, they feel like they have to beat the crap out of anyone new that comes in to prove their dominance, but we're a lot more welcoming. We've got a lot of close friends who hang out outside of the gym. We're basically family and it's always a great environment with Brock Jardine, Court McGee, Ramsey Nijem and of course Rad Martinez and Burkman. Hopefully more great things are here to come.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're fighting a guy in Darren Elkins, who's coming off a win over Diego Brandao, the fighter who eliminated you from The Ultimate Fighter season 14. Do you almost feel like you can avenge the Brandao loss with a win over Elkins?
Steven Siler: I do feel that way a bit. I don't think a lot of MMA fans realize how people can just get caught. Some times fighters don't have a good day and they get caught. It doesn't mean it'll happen again. I felt that's what happened when I fought Diego and I honestly believe I could win that fight if we did it again, any time or day. People just see me getting caught that one time and think I have a weak chin and am not that good, but the rest of my fights I've had, I beat the rest of my opponents pretty well. Maybe if I go out there and take Elkins out, people will finally start to look past the one time I got caught by Diego.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How did you bounce back from some disheartening run to start your career, going 5-7 in your first 12 fights, but then following it up by winning 16 out of 18 bouts? How did you flip that switch mentally?
Steven Siler: Those first 12 fights, I wasn't taking MMA seriously. I wasn't treating it like a career. I was just doing it for fun. I'd never set foot in a gym and I didn't even know where gyms were. I didn't work out at all and I was still in high school for some of those. I just fought just to do it because it sounded fun. After that last loss to Olly Bradstreet, I made a commitment to take it serious and treat the sport with the respect it deserves. I went to a gym and started training and then I started picking up things really quickly. Since then, that's when I turned it around. I've been 16-2 since then.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I always thought it was a typo when you said you'd been fighting for seven years, but only training for five. It's always the opposite where a guy starts training and then feels comfortable enough to take a fight.
Steven Siler: Well I thought it was really cool being a kid in high school fighting on a local TV show that aired on Saturday nights. I got in fights in high school and stuff and stuff anyways so I figured, "Why not get paid for it?" even if it was just 50 bucks or something like that. I thought the chance to be on TV was really cool so I took the opportunity to get those fights even thought I had no training.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Darren Elkins is a fighter who's extremely durable. You got a chance to witness the amount of punishment he can withstand first hand at UFC 146 in Las Vegas and Tiequan Zhang had him in about eight different guillotine chokes during their fight. Do you almost have to be concerned about not going out too hard too fast against this guy because you know he can withstand a pretty big beating?
Steven Siler: In a way, I do, but I also know how good my conditioning is. I have extremely good cardio from training here in Utah in high elevation. I know I can compete with him conditioning-wise and keep the fight where I want to keep it. I'm just gonna keep pushing the pace like I always do and will go the full 15 minutes if I have to.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): After three straight wins in the UFC, having looked better and better with each fight, are you surprised that you're buried in the opening bout on the undercard especially considering this is a fight between two guys who are a combined 6-0 in the featherweight division?
Steven Siler: Definitely when I found out, I was a little shocked. I told people when I signed this fight right away that it would be on FX if not the pay-per-view. I thought there was no way they couldn't put me on FX. I told people, "Hey, tune in November 17th on FX. It'll be a battle since we're both 3-0" and I got the call from my manager saying, "No, you're the first fight of the night." I thought it was disrespectful at first considering me and Darren have worked so hard to get where we're at, but I also look at it like, this is my fourth fight in the UFC in 12 months and I'm lucky just to have the opportunity to fight in the Octagon.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is it almost motivating as well, perhaps wanting to go out there and put on such a good performance that they never want to have you so far down the preliminary card again?
Steven Siler: It's also the chance that if the pay-per-view ends early, they could put us in, so I want to end this fight as quick as possible and get them to put this fight on the pay-per-view and show the fans a great finish. It's definitely motivating in terms of that. I may not be getting paid like I'm on the pay-per-view yet, but I want my fight to have a great finish where they can air it anyways.