by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
This weekend at the Sears Center in Chicago, Illinois, the International Fight League’s [IFL] Quad Cities Silverbacks will be placed in a spot that they’ve never been in since the team’s inception with the league’s formation last year – a must-win situation.

Sure they’ve been in the World Team Tournament Finals before, but that carries a much different set of expectations and anxieties. At least at that point the Silverbacks know their fate and what they’re in for, this Saturday night in Chicago, they don’t.

Lined up against the hometown Chicago Red Bears, the Silverbacks must win, and win big if they hope to even qualify for this year’s World Team Tournament [WTT], as they are currently tied with multiple teams for the last spot in the tournament. It’s that uncertainty that rides heavy on the shoulders of the two-time defending league champions.

Key among the Silverbacks’ chances of qualifying for the tournament is the return of Mike Ciesnolevicz [Mike C. for short]. After missing the team’s last battle against the Reno Lions in April due to a broken nose, Mike is set to return to action this weekend against the Red Bears’ Adam Maciejewski in what could very well be the determining fight in the Silverbacks’ playoff aspirations.

Shortly before heading to Chicago from the team’s home base in Bettendorf, Iowa, Ciesnolevicz spoke to MMAWeekly to discuss his team’s chances this weekend, his return from injury, and a possible rematch that the Silverbacks have been waiting all year for.

MMAWeekly: First off Mike, with this weekend’s match-up against the Red Bears being a must-win for the Silverbacks, does the team or Head Coach Pat Miletich feel any added pressure?

Mike Ciesnolevicz: Pat doesn’t really put any pressure on us about that. We all know what needs to be done. He’s treating it like every other fight, no added stress or pressure. We all know if we want to repeat as Champions we need to win, not only win – win convincingly. We need to win at least four or five of the fights to guarantee a spot in the playoffs.

MMAWeekly: The Red Bears have had a revolving door line-up so far this year. Do you think that hurts or helps the Silverbacks’ chances this weekend?

Mike Ciesnolevicz: If they would have kept the same line-up they had before, it would have been a little easier on us. They have a couple guys for this fight that are pretty tough. Look at John Strawn – I mean Bart [Palaszewski, lightweight] doesn’t have an easy fight – he [Strawn] is a tough, experienced guy. My guy’s cutting down to 205 for the first time, Adam Maciejewski; he’s a really good wrestler. Honestly I think their strongest fighter is Tim Kennedy at 185, he’s a monster there and him and Ryan McGivern could be Fight of the Night.

I think we’re definitely going to win four or five fights. I know it sounds cliché to say, “We’re going to win 5-0,” but I know our team’s ready and if we win 5-0, it won’t be a surprise. Losing Rory [Markham, welterweight] hurts us a little bit, but Josh Neer is one of the toughest guys I know, and I have a lot of confidence in him going into a fight.

MMAWeekly: You mention Rory Markham being out for this fight. This is the second time he’s missed a team battle this year and you’re just coming off of missing the last show as well. What’s up with the Silverbacks’ health issues this year?

Mike Ciesnolevicz: You know, fighting every 5-6 weeks takes its toll. Right after a fight we get a couple days [to rest] and then we have to start training. And if we’re not training for ourselves, we’re in there helping the other [Miletich Fighting Systems] guys that are in other organizations, getting ready for their fights. We have to be their sparring partners too – so we really don’t get a break. So injuries are bound to happen.

Of course, mine happened in my fight against Alex Schoenauer, I got my nose broke. Rory has had problems with his eye, he had to have surgery for that, and he’s always getting banged up. A lot of guys don’t like to fight as often as we are, but if we’re going to repeat as Champions it needs to be done.

MMAWeekly: Okay, let’s talk about your individual fight against Adam Maciejewski. Tell us your thoughts on this fight.

Mike Ciesnolevicz: I look at him as having pretty good hands, being a brawler standing up, and he comes from a strong wrestling background. I think he was on the Polish National Team for wrestling, but I don’t necessarily think he’s going to try to take me down. I think he’s going to try to stand-up, and I’m ready for a stand-up war. I’ve trained a lot on my Muay Thai for this fight, and if it goes to the ground, I’m okay there. I think I have the advantage everywhere, as long as I don’t make a stupid mistake I feel I’m going to come away with a win. And I don’t care how I win – I just want to win.

MMAWeekly: I understand that you changed up your routine for this fight?

Mike Ciesnolevicz: I really changed my diet for this fight. I said before in another interview that I was going to change my diet for this fight and I really did. I changed it up by eating a ton more fruits and vegetables. I don’t eat big meals at night anymore; I eat a big lunch and kind of taper off. I haven’t been drinking many fluids aside from water, and I feel healthier than I ever have. I’m 10 pounds lighter at this stage then I ever have for a fight. So cutting weight isn’t going to be an issue at all.

MMAWeekly: Not only does the Silverbacks making the WTT on your own shoulders, but it also may come down to how some other teams do in their team battles in the coming months. Do you feel confident that the Silverbacks can make the tournament with everything taken into consideration?

Mike Ciesnolevicz: Yeah, you know we actually looked at the line-up and I think teams that we’re tied with actually have harder last fights of the season than we do. If we 3-2 we can still get in, but if we win 4-1 or 5-0 we’re definitely getting in. I think it’s going to be the Anacondas, Pitbulls, Sabres and us. We’re going to be the last team of the four teams and hopefully we’ll get that Anacondas rematch.

I know a lot of guys really want that rematch. Ryan McGivern’s fight [against Benji Radach] was a back-and-forth war that he ended up losing; Bart had that close decision [loss to Chris Horodecki] that was controversial; my fight with Schoenauer was really close; and Ben’s only the really person that won convincingly for us. Having Rory back for us against Jay Hieron is huge and it will probably be Fight of the Night, that’s an amazing match-up right there. I think with Rory back and the rest of us wanting a rematch – I think we can beat the Anacondas.

MMAWeekly: Not only is the WTT coming up, but after that there is the possibility you could qualify for the individual Grand Prix at the end of the year. What do you think about that?

Mike Ciesnolevicz: I definitely want to be in the Grand Prix, I just don’t know how it’s going to work. This will be my fourth win in a row and my second this season if I win, but I really don’t know how they’re going to determine it. If it comes down to who won the fastest, having a split-decision with Schoenauer doesn’t help me get in, even if I go undefeated this season.

I’d love nothing more than to fight, win the [World Team Tournament] Championship and go right into the Grand Prix. I want to fight as much as I can and make as much money as I can and get as many wins as a can. I’m looking forward to fighting Vladimir Matyushenko or Allan Goes, the tougher guys in the league and see how I match up.

MMAWeekly: Thanks for your time Mike; it’s a great to have you on the site, as always. Is there anything you’d like to say as we head out?

Mike Ciesnolevicz: To all the fans, thanks for your support, and if you’re in the area come check us out in Chicago at the Sears Center. It’s going to be a war. We might be defending Champions and they may be 0-2, but from the way I look at the line-up, there’s going to be a lot of action-packed fights – everybody is going to want to tune in. Thanks to Full Contact Fighter and Scientific Wrestling, my two sponsors; and of course the IFL.