Veteran Pyle hoping to shake up title picture

October, 28, 2012
10/28/12
8:49
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Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Mike PyleJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesAfter switching coaches, Mike Pyle, right, is confident he can knock out anyone at 170 pounds.
LAS VEGAS -- At the age of 37, Mike Pyle seems to have adapted a mentality that is typically observed more in fighters in their early 20s -- fight as often as possible, rack up wins and build a name.

Pyle (23-8-1) has won five of his past six fights in the UFC, including three finishes, but his name remains absent from welterweight title talk and top-10 rankings.

He plans on changing that soon, but in the old-fashioned way. He accepted a fight against the lesser-known James Head on Dec. 15 rather than wait for a bigger name.

As a veteran of the sport, he understands the perks that sometimes come with talking outside the cage -- but he's confident that because he's got the finishing ability now, he won't need to talk.

"People are going to start taking me serious," Pyle said. "I'm 37. I don't have time to screw around. I've made some serious changes and I'm going to be a serious threat in the welterweight division.

"Within 12 months, yes [I'll earn a title shot]. If I keep putting wins together and finishing people, there will be no denying me. I'm not going to beg for something I don't deserve. Right now, I don't deserve a title shot. I'll earn it."

Pyle's greatest opportunity to date at shaking up the UFC title picture came in August 2011, when he fought rising Canadian star Rory MacDonald in Philadelphia.

The result was a first-round TKO victory for MacDonald, but those who saw the fight know it's not as if Pyle was dominated bell-to-bell. He took the athletic MacDonald down and nearly took his back in the opening minutes.

Still, Pyle's voice turns to one of disgust when he talks about the loss. Immediately after, he left his longtime camp at Xtreme Couture and went the solo route, hiring a new team that would work almost exclusively with him.

"That fight shouldn't have went that way, but it did," Pyle said. "It opened my eyes. I need one-on-one coaching, and it's helped. My fights since speak for itself."

Pyle rebounded with back-to-back, first-round knockouts over Ricardo Funch and Josh Neer in 2012. He says under new coaches, he's developing his power. Already a proven submission specialist, Pyle is now confident he can knock out anyone at 170 pounds as well.

He was hopeful two early finishes would lead to a big-name opponent and admits a different matchup was potentially in the works before the cancellation of a UFC 151 event in September shook up the schedule. But he's fine taking the Head fight.

Wins and finishes. Pyle believes he's at a point in his career where he can accumulate both against anyone the UFC puts in front of him. Eventually, that anyone has to have a belt around his waist.

"Joe [Silva] was trying to get me matched up and said, 'We have James Head right now,'" Pyle said. "Let's do it. What else am I going to do, stay on the shelf? I'm not 20 years old. I've got to stay busy. I want to stay relevant and keep trying to perform."

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