UFC Featherweight Steven Siler's Secret Formula: Start Training, Start Winning

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UFC Featherweight Steven Siler's Secret Formula: Start Training, Start Winning
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Steven Siler decided it would be a good idea to start training. 

After all, he was 12 fights deep into his professional MMA career, accumulating a 5-7 record over that stretch. He'd horse around with his friend—former UFC welterweight Jorge Lopezand pick up some techniques, but as far as a formal training regimen goes, Siler had none. 

He was just a scrappy kid who wanted to be on local TV and earn a few bucks, so once he turned 18, he granted his own wish.  

"He (Lopez) started training a little bit, so we got to meet some of his fighter friends," Siler told Bleacher Report. "One of those days, I saw his fighter friend on local TV, we had a TV show called Ultimate Combat Experience. They put on weekly shows and the second I turned 18, I thought, 'Man, if I can take a beating from Jorge, I'd be able to handle these small guys any time.'

"I had no background, no nothing, just kind of went in and wanted to be on local TV and get paid anywhere from $50 to 100. It felt so badass to do. I fought 12 fights without even stepping foot into a gym. After the 12th fight, he was like, 'Yeah, man, you definitely have the heart to do this, but how about you take up training? You could take it seriously!'" 

It's funny how training can impact a fighter's career. After enrolling in a formal program at a local jiu-jitsu gym, Siler started winning—a lot. 

He rattled off 10 straight victories—not nine, as Sherdog and Wikipedia will have you believe. "They didn't record them all," he said. As a result, the feisty kid from Utah suddenly had some legitimate techniques to match his heart and determination. 

This run of success, while great on paper, made it difficult for Siler to find a fight, and it wasn't until he took a vacation to California that the next step on his journey materialized. 

Some former Division I wrestler named Chad Mendes needed a fight, and nobody would take it. 

Siler would. 

"I was really big-headed, thinking how badass I was," Siler said. "I was actually on vacation in California and my coach called me, like, 'Hey, we have some Division I wrestler guy. They're offering you this much money.' I wasn’t able to get a fight for the life of me, so I said, 'All right. I'll take a fight against anyone.'

"So I took the fight on two weeks' notice not knowing who this kid was, just coming in confident, thinking, 'I'm going to smash this kid, beat him up. He's just going to try to lay on me. It's going to be nothing.' Then he ended up coming out with hands instead and completely threw me off." 

From cracking a beer on the beach to getting cracked in the skull by Mendes—that was Siler's California vacation. The knockout loss halted his winning streak, but he'd come right back and amass a 4-1 record before landing on Season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter

Siler lost to eventual winner Diego Brando via knockout, but he said the opportunity and the experience he gained were well worth the time invested. After defeating Josh Clopton at the show's finale, he had a legitimate UFC career. He'd been training for roughly four years at this point, and he inked a deal with the UFC. 

This fairy tale felt surreal even to Siler, and he mentioned that fighting guys such as Cole Miller and Mike Thomas Brown—fighters he grew up watching—caught him off guard and really opened his eyes to what he was accomplishing. 

"It was only my second UFC fight (against Miller), so at that moment, I was in the cage, and I remember right in the first round we went through a couple exchanges, and I actually stopped in the middle of the fight and I literally thought, 'Wow. I'm in the cage with Cole Miller. He's been in the UFC for so many fights,'" Siler said. "(Against) Mike Brown, I didn't really get the chance to have that kind of moment because it went by so quickly, but...I love telling everyone, 'Hey, I fought the former champion and I knocked him out.'" 

Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Steven Siler trades blows with Cole Miller.

Now, however, Siler finds himself cornered. He's lost two straight and is set to face American Kickboxing Academy's Noad Lahat at UFC on Fox 12 on Saturday. 

"It's a fight, so there's always a threat," Siler said. "He could always land a big punch, or his ground game, from what I've read, he's pretty good on the ground...I'm not going to worry about his plan, I’m just going to stick to mine." 

It's worth noting, however, that Siler doesn't necessarily view this as a "do or die" moment in his career. His last loss—a TKO to Rony Jason at UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Henderson 2was hardly definitive. Jason caught Siler with two hard punches, sending his foe to the canvas, and the referee quickly intervened. 

Too quickly, in fact. 

Siler threw an upkick and was in the process of landing a second as the referee made his move and halted the bout. The referee made a tough, split-second decision in the heat of battle, so Siler doesn't hold a grudge. 

But it was still the wrong call. 

"I've seen a lot of people say it's probably one of the worst ones (stoppages) in UFC history," Siler said. "I was landing the upkick, so it was frustrating, but it's the ref's call...It's my fault for getting hit, but it was definitely a bad stoppage."

Controversy behind him, Siler moves into his bout refreshed and rejuvenated. He strolls into the fight as a first-time father, and he said this new layer to his life has helped him relax and reflect upon what's most important. He's about to engage in a fistfight with a grown, trained man, but Siler feels good, and negativity has no place in his current mentality. 

"This is going to be my first UFC fight with him (Siler's child)," Siler said. "I've been really excited, carrying him around all week, showing him off. All the UFC reps get to see him and hold him and play with him. It's been a good experience, something that, when he gets older, I think he's going to appreciate being around the UFC environment.

"I actually don't feel any pressure at all. I know that I'm going to perform really well. I've had a good feeling about this fight since the time they offered it to me."

From not training and losing fights to training and winning fights, from fighting on local TV for a slice of fame to fighting on Fox for his family—that's the progression of Steven "Super" Siler. 

As he rides into his UFC on Fox 12 fight against Lahat, he's looking for the finish, and he doesn't care how he gets it. The former submission ace recently discovered he possesses some potent power in his hands and knees, and he's content with either method of victory. Whatever gets the job done works for him. 

"I'm fine wherever it goes. I love to do both (submissions and knockouts)," Siler said. "I've only had two legitimate knockouts. They were awesome feeling, but also choking someone out, you're making them quit, and that's always good too." 

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