Perhaps it is the curse of growth, but the rivalry between MMA and professional boxing is not going away.
One would have thought that after James Toney was dispatched in short order by Randy Couture, boxers would stop calling out MMA fighters, content in knowing that their sports were finally proven—with no shame—to be vastly different.
But if anything, such a “merger” has begun to whet the appetite of certain boxers who want to get more exposure for their name.
If they lose, they can simply attribute it to being strangers in a strange land. If they win, then suddenly more people than ever know their name and they are welcomed back to the boxing community as conquering heroes.
Case in point: the challenge Cain Velasquez had thrown at his feet by heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury, via Twitter, who claimed he would crush Velasquez inside the UFC Octagon.
“I challenge u to fight all in in a cage or ring! It could be billed as the man vs midget lets get it on!”
For his part, Velasquez handled the challenge like he should have. He stated that if Fury wants to fight him, he needs to join the UFC and work his way up the ladder like everyone else.
It is unknown if Fury will let the topic die or try to fan the flames in the hopes of making a fire so big everyone will know his name. It still speaks to the idea that more pro boxers, tired of being unknown, may use this tactic to get their name spoken aloud in front of the cameras that follow and report on both sports.
The question is a tired one, but if professional boxers are going to keep trying to cash this lottery ticket, then it needs to be pressed hard.
The question is: “Are you going to follow through?”
Most know they will not, so pressing the issue in a manner that is unapologetic and uncompromising is perhaps the only way to silence them. I am not saying defeating another boxer in the Octagon is the answer, because even then the boxer loses little to no face.
Unless the boxer loses a lot of face in the actual fight, which is really the only way that the sport of MMA can draw a hard line in the sand.
Dana White and the UFC shouldn’t reward every boxer that decides to run his mouth with the exposure and money that is expected from such a clash in the Octagon. He did it once with James Toney.
Once was enough.
So it seems like the only things left are in the hands of Dana White. When boxers like Fury throw out challenges to fighters, they are really talking to White.
One option he has is to make it quite clear that professional boxers are welcome in the UFC, but they have to fight for the spot on a season of The Ultimate Fighter. It would give these boxers a great deal of exposure and would also perhaps uncover new talent, which is the purpose of the show.
Hardly any boxers would take up the offer, but should White continue to return to that option as their only chance, eventually boxers will either get on board and take the shot on the show or return their focus to where it belongs: in the boxing ring.
The second option is to declare that no pro boxer will ever step foot into the Octagon again without becoming an MMA fighter and establishing a record as such, no exceptions.
Of course, there are problems with both of those solutions, but they seem to be the most direct and sensible choices that serve the sport no matter what boxers choose to do.
The more I think about it, a season of The Ultimate Fighter that had some professional boxers included would probably do fairly well and would also serve as a tool to teach other boxers just how demanding MMA really is.
Either way, it would provide an education for men like Fury who are assuming much and knowing little, and education is never a bad thing.