UFC

Philippou pulls no punches

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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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Costa Philippou heard people question why he was tapped to take on Tim Boetsch at UFC 155 on Saturday.

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And the Cyprus native quickly dismissed those critics.

“I don’t really care,” Philippou told FOXSports.com. “Anybody can beat anybody. What the fans say or what stupid idiots in front of keyboards write doesn’t matter. I don’t care about their opinions because they aren’t the ones who are going into the cage.”

Philippou, 33, has had success in the Octagon of late, even if it hasn’t moved him near the top of any of the major MMA rankings among middleweights. He enters this weekend’s bout on a four-fight winning streak, the most recent a unanimous decision against Riki Fukuda at UFC 148 in July.

But it’s not just his recent success that makes Philippou stand out.

“He definitely keeps things interesting,” said Chris Weidman, Philippou’s teammate whose shoulder injury last month forced him out of the bout against Boetsch. ““He’s a different character. He’s not like your normal tough guy. He keeps it real. He’s going to tell you exactly how he feels, whether that hurts your feelings or not.”

Philippou insists he’s purely straightforward, not malicious.

“I say what I think and it’s usually what everybody else thinks, but they are afraid to say anything,” Philippou said. “I don’t really care.”

He doesn’t sugar coat why he’ll be in the Octagon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

“I hear a lot of guys say, ‘I fight for the fans and for the love of the sport,” Philippou said. “That’s all (expletive). We fight for the money. We fight for the excitement. Nobody is fighting for the fans. I was fighting smaller shows that nobody was watching. We’re doing it for ourselves, our families and our lifestyle. Those guys who say they are doing it for the fans are liars. I fight to get paid.”

And his lone goal against Boetsch is to win, not look good doing it.

“Whether it’s exciting or not exciting doesn’t matter,” Philippou said. “This isn’t all fun and games. This is stressful stuff. If this was easy, everybody would be doing it because everybody wants to get famous.”

Philippou’s first entry into the UFC was a short one. He lost his first match of The Ultimate Fighter 11 and didn’t even make it into the house for the reality show. Much like this current opportunity, he made his UFC debut as a replacement – a bout he had little time to prepare for and which he lost to Nick Catone at UFC 128 in March 2011.

It’s the way a lot of fighters get their big break, including Boetsch. He was a late replacement for a bout against David Heath at UFC 81 in February 2008.

“For me, I was just really excited about the opportunity,” said Boetsch, who won his UFC debut via a first-round TKO. “I was given the opportunity to fight somebody at a high level ad was given only 10 days’ notice.”

Philippou had more than a month to prepare for Boetsch after Weidman tore his labrum and injured his rotator cuff. Philippou got a call from UFC matchmaker Joe Silva a short time later before he even knew about the injury.

Boetsch said the switch caused a drastic change in his training.

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“Weidman has a great wrestling pedigree and always seems to be in good condition,” Boetsch said. “That doesn’t mean Costa will be an easy fight. He’s on a tear right now. He’s great with his hands and he’s a dangerous guy in the cage.”

Boetsch said the fact that Philippou isn’t highly ranked like he is, doesn’t matter to him. For Philippou, the only opinion he heeds is that of Silva and other UFC officials.

“It’s happened before and it will happen again,” he said. “Everybody thinks this guy should be there or that guy should be there. We’re talking about teenagers or fat guys who are drinking beer saying what the UFC should do. They have no idea what’s going on in the sport. They have never fought once in their lives.

“It doesn’t matter to me if they say I got lucky and shouldn’t be there. You can’t please everybody.”

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