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Sadibou Sy

Brian Ramos

Sadibou Sy, pictured training Monday at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, is slated to fight Josh Silveira tonight at The Theatre at Virgin Hotels. Sy, a former welterweight, is moving up to the light heavyweight division as the Professional Fighter League kicks off its 2024 season. Sy won the 2022 PFL season’s 170-pound division’s championship and accompanying $1 million prize. He looks to add to the success with a new title in the 205-pound division.

Sadibou Sy spent six weeks bulking up late last year during a prolonged trip away from his current residence in Las Vegas to his native Stockholm.

When he returned to his home gym, the renowned Xtreme Couture on West Sunset Road, toward the start of the new year, Sy’s training partners hardly recognized him. Several teammates asked the previously lanky 6-foot-3 fighter about his weight.

Why was someone who had recently been a champion in the Professional Fighter League’s welterweight division suddenly looking like a heavyweight?

“I heard Francis (Ngannou) is looking for an opponent,” Sadibou would deadpan.

Ngannou, the former UFC heavyweight champion and perhaps Xtreme Couture’s most famous recent fighter, signed a deal with the PFL last year that helped solidify its place as the second biggest mixed martial arts promotion next to the UFC. Ngannou acquired an equity stake in the company and a spot as chairman of the upstart PFL Africa brand but has yet to debut in the cage while securing a pair of eight-figure boxing matches in Saudi Arabia.

Fighters like the 37-year-old Sy have built up the PFL’s momentum in the meantime. While everyone knew Sy was joking about challenging Ngannou, the then-secret truth wasn’t all that far off — He was planning a rare move two weight classes up to light heavyweight.

Sy won the 2022 PFL season’s 170-pound division’s championship and accompanying $1 million prize. He looks to add to the success with a new title in the 205-pound ranks when the division’s 2024 PFL season kicks off tonight at the Theater at Virgin Hotels.

Sy faces fellow PFL veteran Josh Silvera, who fights out of another one of mixed martial arts’ most successful gyms at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla., on the main card that airs on ESPN2 and ESPN+ beginning at 6 p.m.

Tickets start at $45 with an event that’s a de facto opening act for one of the biggest mixed martial arts weekends ever that caps with UFC 300 tomorrow night at T-Mobile Arena.

“I have no idea how he ever made 170 because he’s such a big dude,” UFC Hall of Famer/Xtreme Couture founder/PFL analyst Randy Couture said of Sy. “He’s got the frame to be a legit 205-pounder and he’s a great striker. I think he might find he has more energy and is able to handle himself better not cutting all that weight.”

Sy is the type of fighter Couture envisioned luring to town when he founded Xtreme Couture nearly 20 years ago amid a storied UFC career that saw him win titles at both heavyweight and light heavyweight. Randy Couture stopped running the day-to-day operations of the gym years ago with his son, fellow former UFC fighter Ryan Couture, now in charge but still takes a lot of pride in its longevity.

He admits to having to “bite his tongue” and fight hard to be objective when calling bouts with fighters like Sy who have thrived under his banner.

“Sadibou wanted to shore up his wrestling and become a more well-rounded fighter, and I think that led him to his first world championship,” Randy Couture said. “I’m excited for him. He has such great work ethic and is willing to put himself out there in uncomfortable situations and do the right thing. He’s so diligent and a great guy. You want those kind of guys in your gym.”

Sy never planned to be a permanent fixture at Xtreme Couture. He booked a short visit three years ago to spar with staples like former UFC middleweight champion Sean Strickland and longtime contender Brad Tavares.

It went so well and he connected so much with the staff including head coach Eric Nicksick that Sy and his wife packed up and moved to Las Vegas within the next year.

“Being out here with like-minded people, people who are looking for their path in their own right and seeing how far they can push it is huge,” Sy said. “Some days as an athlete, you wake up and don’t feel it. You don’t feel like coming out, but here you come to the mat and you see training partners pull you up like, ‘Let’s go,’ and you get drawn into that.”

Sy pulled back-to-back upsets in two of his first fights as a full-time member of the Xtreme Couture team, including as a near 3-to-1 underdog to former UFC standout Rory MacDonald in July 2022. That led him to the life-changing victory over Dilano Taylor to become champion four months later.

With the seven-figure payday, he further established his roots locally by buying a house. His wife gave birth to their first child, a son, last year.

“I feel like everything has come together,” Sy said. “When I started fighting mixed martial arts, my goal was not to be a millionaire or anything like that. It was just to push myself, so to be able to know I won a title in MMA, I can look back at my career and be very proud. But I made sure there was no time to smell the roses.”

Sy was right back in the PFL’s welterweight competition in 2023, and won his first three fights to set up a championship bout against Magomed Magomedkerimov.

But the PFL’s busy schedule had taken its toll on his body and Sy struggled to make weight for his fourth fight of the year. He ended up hitting the 170-pound mark but many, including Randy Couture, were alarmed by how gaunt Sy looked on the scale.

He also slowed in the fight, losing via third-round submission to Magomedkerimov.

Sy may not have shared his plans with everyone, but after the fight, he knew the next move he needed to make and headed off to Sweden with eyes on getting bigger.

“I always thought I would go back and fight at 185 but the structure and format of the PFL not having the 185-pound division made me really ask myself, ‘Do I want to keep pushing myself down to 170?’” Sy explained. “For me and my team, it was a no-brainer after the way my body felt making the weight the last time last year.”

Sy went through full workouts for the last few days at Xtreme Couture, something that was impossible during fight weeks at welterweight. His sole focus that late in past training camps was depleting his body to get on weight.

He’s hoping the newfound energy leads to a strong debut at light heavyweight. With a championship team and history behind him, Sy is out for more.

“It’s made me realize something I already knew: That I have what it takes to go the whole way,” he said.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or

Article written by #LasVegasSun