Is Roy Jones Jr. a Combat Sports God or Fraud?

Brian Oswald@@briancoswaldMMA Editor March 19, 2009

The relationship between boxing and MMA is reminiscent to another in the sports world: the one between Formula One and NASCAR. The two are the two most popular and beloved track-based motorsports in the world, but yet are complete polar opposites - the the chalk and cheese of motorsports.

A siimilar relationship is shared by boxing and MMA in the combat sports world - a world where fans often debate which sport is superior once the rubber meets the road.

(The full parallel between the sports can be saved for another article, although one might think Formula One would be the “sweet science” while NASCAR is akin to the world of mixed martial arts.)

Formula One racing is held in high esteem throughout the world as the greatest form of motorsports on the planet. Aficionados get a kick out of analyzing the fuel-corrected qualifying times while the romantic’s heart beats faster at the thought of the G forces in the cockpit.

NASCAR fans will counter that, while not a perfect sport, when it comes to competition, entertainment and fighting, NASCAR is simply better.

One thing is fairly certain: fans of both will never see an event that features a race with F1 cars followed by a race which features modified stock cars. The logistics alone would be a nightmare, although the potential fights between pit crews just might be worth it.

This Saturday night, the world of combat sports will get its first real taste of what boxing and MMA will look like on the same fight card. Eight-time world boxing champion Roy Jones Jr. may not be ready to sport four-ounce gloves himself, but he is eager to promote the fighters who do.

“March Badness” will feature Jones Jr. in his latest homecoming fight, a light heavyweight tilt against the always tough Omar Sheika. The event will take place in Jones' backyard at the Pensacola Civic Center and will air on pay-per-view for a modest $29.95.

Headlining the MMA portion of the card will be a fight between former IFL and EliteXC alum Roy Nelson and former UFC menace and anarchist Jeff Monson.

Also featured is former WWE star Bobby Lashley taking on Jason Guida, a late replacement for Ken Shamrock, who was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission for steroid use.

Reading through recent interview clippings, Jones’ mission is clear: to "bring together" the two combat sports. Whether or not this united we stand, divided we fall mantra lifts the sport to unprecedented heights remains to be seen, we all know that seeing is believing...or is it?

Whether or not hardcore or mainstream fans buy into the cross-promoting concept will quickly determine its financial fate.

The hybrid MMA/boxing fan remains a rare bird in the world of combat sports and this event will likely be a tough sell for those who have strong allegiance to one religion or the other.

In a recent article on Bleacher Report, a supporting online poll asked readers whether they thought having boxing and MMA on the same fight card was a good idea. 30 percent thought it was a great idea, another 30 percent thought it was a horrible idea and the remaining 40 percent were not sure yet.

At least that provides a glimmer of hope to the vision Jones is trying to sell us.

Perhaps putting a boxing match or two on an MMA card can convert an MMA fan into a boxing fan and vice versa. While anything is possible, it is highly questionable if the overall quality of this card will be the one to actually accomplish this.

Initially, Affliction and Golden Boy Promotions starting "dating" because the two planned to cross-promote on one fight card, but it appears they have cooled to the idea, at least for now.

Instead, the two organizations decided to host separate events on the same night, both in Los Angeles with Shane Mosely vs. Antonio Margarito and the Affliction: Fedor vs. Arlovski event.

While some thought the move would siphon fans from each other, both the boxing card and MMA card were successful in their own right.  

The question that will hover beyond “March Badness" is whether cross-promotion is where the future of combat sports is evolving toward or rather a niche market for that rarest of hybrid fans. For most, the answer will be a foregone conclusion, but in sports, history is the final verdict.

It’s not exactly a “sweet science” when attempting to determine what will ultimately resonate in the hearts and minds of the mainstream sports fan.

Once upon a time, college football ruled the gridiron and the notion of professional football was considered the laughing stock idea of the sports community.

Back in 1993, the Gracie family helped introduce the world of sports to mixed martial arts. No one could have accurately predicted the meteoric rise the sport has enjoyed based on those first few fight cards.

When it comes to cross-promotion, while these fight cards could find a niche, the concept seems as a whole destined to dither. Don’t tell that to Roy Jones Jr. though. He will be shouting “Can't we all just get along” as long as he sees dollar signs in his rear view mirror.