One of the premier kickboxers in the world today, Jerome Le Banner has flirted with mixed martial arts competition in the past, amassing a 3-1-1 record. Although he hasn’t fought MMA in more than two years, he is currently in negotiations to return to the sport.
Le Banner’s agent, Alan Kermorvan, tells MMAWeekly.com that his fighter is working towards a contract with Affliction in hopes of putting together a bout between the kickboxing superstar and former two-time Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia.
“We have been talking with (Affliction vice president) Tom Atencio for about two weeks about this possibility. We are good friends of Affliction because they are one of our sponsors,” said Kermorvan.
Due to some history between Le Banner and Sylvia, that is the fight that Atencio seems to be focusing on for the storied K-1 fighter.
“Honestly, we have no news about Sylvia. Tom seems very interested to ink a deal pretty soon,” Kermorvan relayed. “You might see us ringside at Affliction 2 in October. I'm pretty sure we can work out something pretty quickly, it’s just not signed yet.”
He also confirmed that the negotiations have centered on Le Banner fighting in the third Affliction show, which is likely to take place sometime in January or February of 2009.
The heat between Le Banner and Sylvia actually dates back to 2005 when Le Banner and his management made some comments addressing the former UFC champion.
“It’s a long story,” says Kermorvan. “Back in 2005, I showed to Jerome some UFC videos. There were some of Tim Sylvia's fights. At this time, the commentator and a lot of guys were saying how strong Tim was, how good of a striker he was, etc.
“Our opinion was really different. We thought Tim was pretty boring when he had some real opposition and we were sure his striking skills were overrated. Everybody was saying he was K-1 level and this is so wrong.”
But the attention to the situation was magnified after Le Banner and Kermorvan, having watched Sylvia defeat Assuerio Silva in early 2006, decided to make some public waves in addressing Sylvia. “At this point comes the idea of a video challenge, the rest is history. There was some trash talking, some real, some fake via a fake myspace profile, etc.”
At the time, Sylvia responded on MMAWeekly Radio, saying, "First of all, I don't even know who Jerome Le Banner, whatever his name is, Jabroni is. I have heard the name. I've talked to the guys at the gym. He is very high up there from what I understand. I'm not calling any K-1 fighters out... But if somebody is calling me out, they need to step into my rules and fight me in the UFC."
Le Banner then responded in kind, saying, “Sylvia says I'm a nobody and that I want recognition. He must be blind and deaf. Of course in the USA UFC is more well known than K-1, but in the entire world K-1 is far more popular. Sylvia is a no name outside of the USA; I'm not. I fought against the best and beat a lot of them. You can't say that for Tim.”
Le Banner did have talks with the UFC during that time, but a fight in the Octagon couldn’t happen due to the UFC’s insistence on a multi-fight agreement and Le Banner’s prior commitment to K-1.
“UFC said us they were interested to have Jerome, but only for an exclusive multi-fight deal. It was impossible. It didn’t happen,” said Kermorvan. “By the way, we always had respect for Tim. He's a great MMA fighter.
“He was the UFC champ; he deserves a huge respect for that. You know the challenge was also a joke, but the kind of joke you hope to become real.”
The talk kind of faded away when contracts just couldn’t come together, but the idea has been rekindled now that Sylvia no longer fights for the UFC.
Although a fight with Sylvia is definitely the focus of current negotiations, that’s not to say Le Banner’s sole purpose in MMA is to fight the former UFC champion. Depending upon negotiations with both Affliction and K-1, he could still end up fighting MMA for Affliction whether a bout with Sylvia materializes or not.
Le Banner has competed in Muay Thai, kickboxing, full-contact, K-1 rules, MMA, and pro boxing, amongst other disciplines, and fighting MMA in the U.S. is on his list of goals.
“Jerome wants to fight under MMA rules in the USA at least once in his life. It’s one of his goals in his martial arts career,” said Kermorvan, adding, “He wants to test himself. He wants to beat the other guys in their disciplines. Jerome is a true warrior; his quest has no end. He will continue to challenge himself forever.”