As the pendulum of popularity starts favoring mixed martial arts over boxing, athletes from different facets of the combat sport world will start gravitating towards the octagons or cages. Whether it is football legend Herschel Walker, NCAA wrestling champion turned WWE superstar Brock Lesnar or now current IBO and NABO heavyweight boxing champion James Toney; all want a crack at the fastest growing sport in America, MMA.
It has been reported by mmajunkie.com that 41-year old boxing legend, Toney, made his octagon desires apparent to UFC president Dana White after attending December’s UFC 107 in Memphis, Tenn. Toney was also in attendance for Saturday’s UFC 108 event in Las Vegas where he reportedly joked about showing up at White’s private residence unless the brash boss offered him a chance to enter the octagon.
The lighthearted threat struck a chord causing White to jokingly respond, “I’m going to go sit right down with [Toney] before he goes to my [expletive] house.”
The signing of a boxer passed his prime and his forties is unlikely for White, who was highly critical of Strikeforce’s acquisition of 47-year old Herschel Walker months back. “Listen, let me tell you what: I got blasted this week? Let me make this fight (with Toney),” White said. “That will get me [expletive] blasted. I’m the first guy out there going, ‘This is a [expletive] freak show. Who would put on a fight like this?’ I’m the first guy that would say that. I’m always saying it when freak shows happen.”
As the probability of seeing Toney throw four ounce leather dwindles, White still allowed “Light’s Out” a chance to make his case.
“When [Toney] first started following me in Memphis, I said, ‘Do you know how to wrestle?'” White said. “‘I know how to do all that [expletive],’ he says. ‘Yeah, yeah. I know how to do all that [expletive].’ White remained skeptical by sarcastically replying, “OK.”
While Toney’s wrestling claim seems suspect, White went on to further explain the importance for boxers to accept the realization that their sweet science is executed completely different by MMA fighters despite each athlete learning the same basics.
“Zab Judah was here tonight, too, and I’m friends with Zab,” White said. “Zab’s like, ‘Man, you need to teach these guys how to box. You need to do this and that.’ But these guys don’t understand – I learned – you don’t balance your weight the same way you balance your weight in boxing. You’ll get that front leg kicked off into the eighth row somewhere if you distribute your weight like they do in boxing. It’s just totally different, and there’s an education process there for these guys that I [expletive] learned the hard way.”
Personal experience in both sports has given the UFC exec a unique perspective into the intricacies of each martial art.
“I got choked out, kicked in the leg, and all this stuff that happens. When I started, believe me, I was that guy. I was Zab Judah. I was like, ‘That [expletive] is [expletive]. You know what a boxer would do to that guy?’ Until I went in and started doing it. I was like, ‘Holy [expletive]. This is crazy.’ You just have to see the light. You have to get into it and see.”
Rumors aside, White later expressed his admiration for the successful boxer but followed with a fair warning. “[Toney] is actually a guy whom I respect. This guy is tough as nails. He’s mean. He’s nasty but he better get in shape if he wants to come and do this stuff.”