In recent months boxer James Toney has made it clear that he wants to fight in the UFC. So much so in fact that he has attended the last two major UFC events with the intention of convincing Dana White to sign him up.
There’s no doubt that Toney brings some impressive credentials to the table. His professional boxing record stands at 72-6-3, with 44 wins coming by way of knockout. He is a multiple division champion, claiming belts from his earlier years in the middleweight division, right through to the heavyweight class where he currently resides, and holds the WBO NABO title.
On The other hand, aged 41, Toney is no longer in the prime of his career. He has also stated that he would consider fighting in the UFC as a “part-time job” in-between his boxing bouts.
It would be bad for the growth of the sport in general if it’s leading promotion were to become a playground for ageing sportsmen looking to try their hand at something different, and cash in on the growing popularity of MMA.
Also, anyone wanting to fight in mixed martial arts should be dedicating 100% of their time to do so. The range of skills you are required to have at least a basic knowledge of, and the level of cardio required to fight for three rounds of action, demands it.
In an interview with Fighthype after UFC 108, Toney also stated that, “They talking about ground game? That don’t mean nothing to me dog. Number one, I ain’t gonna allow none of them boys to lay on top of me like a lil ***, you know what I’m saying?”
If there was any doubt left then the above statement provides all the information Dana White needs in order to come to the conclusion that Toney has no business fighting in the UFC.
Asking to compete in the UFC, and then frowning at the idea of the fight going to the ground is the equivalent of a baseball star asking to enter a Golfing major like The Masters while stating that they have no interest in putting. It’s damaging to the credibility of the sport to even entertain the idea of someone fighting for the promotion who thinks this way.
Brock Lesnar is a good example of a fighter who entered the sport with the right attitude. Already possessing strong credentials as an amateur wrestler, Lesnar took a year out to focus solely on training mixed martial arts with some of the leading coaches in the game before his first MMA bout. He had almost another year of training under his belt before he set foot in the UFC for the first time.
Even given that some would argue that Lesnar was accepted too quickly into the UFC and should have served a longer apprenticeship, but there can be no doubting his commitment and dedication to becoming a genuine mixed martial artist.
If Toney were to do dedicate himself to the sport in the same way then at least his request would be worth considering. If he had done so 10-15 years ago when he was still in his prime then that would be something to get genuinely excited about.
To be fair Dana White made the rod for his own back in this situation when he let Kimbo Slice enter the UFC. As Toney points out, “They let a street fighter in the UFC; I know they can let a future Hall Of Fame boxer with real fighting skills and credentials in there.”
He has a point here, but just because the UFC made an error in judgement in allowing Slice to fight doesn’t mean they should continue to do so. Also, though Slice is not a UFC caliber fighter, at least he has served some form of apprenticeship by fighting in smaller promotions and on the TUF show, and has learned the hard way that you have to embrace more than just the striking aspect of the sport in order to succeed.
The truth of the matter is that the UFC just doesn’t need a fighter like James Toney in the sport, despite his impressive boxing credentials. The days when circus acts like this may have been necessary to draw a crowd are gone. MMA doesn’t need boxing in order to be successful.
While there may be a short term gain in putting on a fight like this, in the longer term Dana White would be wise to take the high road and decline James Toney’s advances and continue to promote genuine mixed martial artists instead.