Mike Pierce has reached that defining moment in his relationship with Joe Silva, matchmaker for the UFC.
Apparently, wins (Pierce has nine in the UFC) haven’t caught Silva’s attention. Neither have finishes (two in his last three fights). It’s time to try beer.
“Maybe I need to get a big pitcher of beer for Joe and sit down and hash this out,” Pierce told ESPN.com. “No, it’s just one of those things where I have to keep doing what I’m doing until they can’t ignore me anymore.”
Pierce (17-5), who faces Rousimar Palhares at UFC Fight Night 29 next week in Sao Paulo, Brail, wants a fight that matters. The kind of fight that breaks you into the Top 10.
He holds a lifetime UFC record of 9-3. All three losses were by close decision to highly ranked opponents. The split decision loss to Josh Koscheck in February 2012? Pierce says he “clearly” won that.
Following his last victory, a TKO finish over David Mitchell in the second round at UFC 162 in Las Vegas, a photo was taken of Pierce smiling toward Silva, with his hands at his sides turned upward, like -- Hey Joe, can I get a big fight now?
What he got was Palhares (14-5), who is on a 2-fight losing streak and dropping to welterweight for the first time. Pierce, meanwhile, has won four in a row.
How does Pierce, 33, feel about this matchup leading into the fight? ESPN.com asked him, among other things.
ESPN: What was your first reaction to hearing you were fighting Palhares?
Pierce: I thought it was kind of funny because if you look back on my career, there have been a lot of guys the UFC has thrown at me where it was their last chance at doing something. If they didn’t do something, they either got released or would drop a weight class or something. It’s kind of like another one of those situations. He’s lost twice in a row and is dropping to 170. I’ve dealt with guys before who have dropped from 185 and it didn’t go their way.
ESPN: Why do you think the UFC likes to book you against that type of opponent?
Pierce: Man, your guess is as good as mine. I’ve done some things in the sport. I’ve beat some tough guys and I’ve had real close calls with some guys that are fighting for the title real soon. It does blow my mind as to why. I can’t quite answer or fully understand it.
ESPN: That kind of matchmaking starting to bother you?
Pierce: Of course, I’m p---ed off. I want to start getting those main card fights against notable guys. Palhares has fought some tough guys. He’s got a little bit of credence to his name but I want to start working my up. This guy is coming off two losses and I’m on a 4-fight win streak. Typically, they don’t match up guys like that.
ESPN: Have you complained to the UFC about it?
Pierce: I haven’t had too much interaction with Joe Silva. I’ve had brief words with him. He’s not a huge fan of most people who smash guys up against the fence and grind on them, hit them on the side, that sort of stuff -- which, I get. That’s not exciting. He’s like, “I don’t care if it’s a submission, a TKO or a knockout. Look for finishes.” I get that, but it’s hard to do that sometimes when a guy is fresh or you have two skilled fighters. It’s hard to catch them sleeping. And I have had two good finishes in my last three fights.
ESPN: What are your thoughts on Palhares’ style? He has a history of going real deep on submission attempts in the Octagon.
Pierce: Well yeah, there was that one clear, obvious one where he held it when the referee told him to let go and he got fined by a commission (UFC 111). Then recently, he tested positive for elevated testosterone levels (UFC on FX 6), so this guy is definitely a cheat. There’s no surprise. He’ll do anything to win because he’s either desperate or an (a------). I’m not too concerned about that. I come in expecting he’s going to be mean, try to be a bully, try to cheat -- I have to deal with it.
ESPN: The tag “underrated” has started to follow you. You agree with it?
Pierce: Whenever the media does mention me it’s always as, “the most underrated welterweight.” I thoroughly agree with that. I think for whatever reason, people overlook me, but I don’t think the fighters do. I think the fighters in the welterweight division think, ‘That’s not really a guy I want to fight.’
ESPN: You’ve had close losses to Johny Hendricks and Koscheck. You ever think about those? Like, if one judge had seen it different, your entire career changes?
Pierce: I only think about them when guys interview me and bring it up. No, I think about it from time to time. Had things gone my way, of course things would be a little different but that’s how it goes when you have judges who don’t see what everybody else sees. Especially with the Koscheck fight -- I clearly won that fight. I won it on paper. I won it visually to everybody watching except for the judges it seems like. At the end of the day, those three judges get to make that decision and they didn’t do a good job that night I believe -- but you’ve got to look forward.