At yesterday’s UFC 118 pre-fight press conference you’d have been hard pressed to have picked out James Toney as being days away from his mixed martial arts debut against a legend of the sport.
The 42 year-old boxer appeared calm, relaxed and was apparently in a mischievous, but generally good-natured mood.
This quickly became apparent when he teased veteran boxing and MMA reporter Franklin McNeil when he asked Toney a question about his readiness to fight.
“…Franklin…man, you should no better than that,” he said smiling before slowly shaking his head, “Man, Please, sit down…sit.”
He then went on to talk about his training camp for the fight.
“This sport is great, I love it. You know, I started nine months ago…it kicked my but and all that, but after I got into it, got around some great people, I started adjusting, making the necessary adjustments over the last seven or eight weeks. And it’s great man, I’m ready to go.”
Just a few weeks ago Toney had been threatening to knockout UFC president Dana White at the press gathering, but apparently he’s had a change of heart.
“Come on Dana, talk to me, baby. I love you. Dana!” Toney barked randomly at one stage to laughs from the auditorium, and a slightly bemused reaction from White himself.
There were moments where he was more serious though, such as when he was asked how this fight compared to a time in the early 2000’s when he was written off before bouncing back with a ‘Fight Of The Year’ performance and then a victory over Evander Holyfield.
“It’s a similar feeling, but I’m much more hungry because everybody says I can’t do this and MMA is different. Let me tell you something, ain’t nothing different when you get in the ropes or they close the cage, ‘cos I’m a different kind of animal. I adapt to my atmosphere. So I’m ready. I can’t wait, I’m excited.”
Toney has also been somewhat critical of Couture’s hall-of-fame status, but on this occasion he was willing to give him his dues.
“I’m glad I got the opportunity to fight a guy like Randy Couture who’s done so much in this game. I came here to fight a guy who’s accomplished so much. That’s the only way I know how to do it. I do it big in boxing, I do it big in MMA. If your the best that’s what you do.”
The time for pleasantries was over when it came to the staredown later on though as glared menacingly at ‘The Natural’, even after Couture had turned his back and walked away.
Toney is a complex character, sometimes playing the comedian, sometimes playing the bully, but more than anything else he leaves you in no doubt that more than anything else, he’s a fighter, and on Saturday night he genuinely believes he will emerge with his hand raised.