If I told you that a 41-year-old boxer with no professional MMA experience and very little training was offered a deal by the UFC and turned it down, what would you think is more ridiculous: the offer or the denial?
The recent public courting between alphabet soup heavyweight champion James Toney and the UFC took a turn up to the bedroom but didn't make it up the stairs.
Among other things, Toney explained last week that, "Dana White's first offer was a joke and that lets me know he really don't want to do this."
Toney's recent persistence in pushing for a UFC contract was spurred by a few things, mostly opportunity and money. As most fight fans are aware, boxing has devolved into a frustrating sport that seems more about promoters and athletes avoiding big fights rather than put them together.
Toney has been vocal about how the Klitschko brothers are dodging him and that no one wants to fight him. He wants competition but can't get it, hence why he looked toward the UFC for an opportunity to take on the best and earn some cash doing so.
However, he apparently doesn't want to compete that badly as he spurned White's undisclosed offer, one that was quite unprecedented considering it would be Toney's MMA debut and would seem to fly in the face of White's previous statements about protecting the sport from sideshow events. (Google 'Dana White Herschel Walker' for a taste.)
But hey, if White was willing to give Kimbo Slice a shot, anything's possible.
I'm not sure what Toney expected but I'm guessing it was likely out of whack with what he was offered. If I had to guess, I would think White probably offered a PPV co-main event against a guy like Slice (which would make perfect sense) for six figures and a small percentage of PPV buys. In other words, not a heavyweight title shot and a multi-million payday which I assume he felt he's somehow earned.
There's been no public rebuttal of Toney's comments from White, nor should there be. In fact, White should be insulted that Toney snubbed him like this. While Toney may think that his 44 knockouts mean something in the Octagon, they really don't. By now, boxers should understand there's a lot more to the sport than just swinging and connecting, but I'm sure they see the smaller gloves and huge grins comes across their faces as they envision what they could do one-on-one.
White has said that he continually gets requests from boxers to step inside the cage, but his deterrents haven't stopped pugilists from thinking they can revive their fighting careers in MMA simply because they can fight standing up. Two recent examples:
- Shannon Briggs: Yes, THAT Shannon Briggs. The now 38-year-old is attempting a bit of a comeback after almost three years off and got off to a rollicking start with a 1st round KO of Marcus McGee in December...only to get suspended for 90 days due to a positive test for a controlled substance.
In late December, Briggs' management team announced that he was going to begin MMA training in NYC and that he has "been working overtime to increase his cardio in order to compete at the highest level of MMA" Yes, because if his cardio is better, that means he's ready. How about a starter jiu-jitsu course first?
Again, he's almost 40 and has been out of active competition for nearly three years. While he did defeat George Foreman and competed against top guys like Lennox Lewis, that was also a decade ago. But somehow, he's ready to change gears and become an MMA superstar.
- Ricardo Mayorga: It's all but been confirmed that Mayorga will make his MMA debut against UFC veteran Din Thomas for the upstart Shine Promotions as part of a multi-fight deal. The veteran of 38 pro boxing fights, Mayorga is 36 years old and think he can hang with guys like Thomas, a pro for over 10 years.
Like Briggs, Mayorga is coming off a long layoff as he hasn't fought since a September 2008 loss to Shane Mosley. Maybe he can join Briggs in some brisk cardio training.
I guess when you have situations like Ray Mercer's quick June 2009 KO of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia, there should be no surprise that boxers are making a push to get in the MMA game. Remember Roy Jones Jr. and the much-discussed Anderson Silva bout? Can you imagine how one-sided that would be? Danny Green this isn't.
But even with a large amount of events in 2010 and more organizations looking to make an impact, the sport of MMA isn't Ellis Island and doesn't need the tired, the poor and the weary of boxing to come to our shores.
It comes down to a pretty simple fact: the sport is multi-dimensional. Boxers seem to assume their striking puts them at a huge advantage, but any MMA fan worth their salt knows that fighters that begin with a wrestling or jiu-jitsu base often end up better-equipped in the long run. While striking is obviously important, it's about diversity these days - not the single-style silo that boxers assume will work.
If Toney was smart, he would have taken White's offer - even as unmerited as it was - and put his money where his mouth is. By doing so and actually winning, Toney would have opened up the floodgates for more boxers to knock on the UFC's door, pointing to the victory as proof of the argument some boxing fans have pointed to in the overplayed argument against MMA.
By turning him down, Toney proved why the boxing industry is so flawed these days. Where there is opportunity, there is often an excuse.
Josh Nason has published MMA, wrestling and boxing blog Ropes, Ring and Cage.com since 2007. He is a contributor to Fight Magazine and appears regularly on Fight Network Radio and Mauro Ranallo's Fight Show. Follow him on Twitter.