Shine's Matchmaker Ron Foster Talks Thomas, Mayorga, and Boxing vs. MMA

Todd JacksonSenior Analyst IMarch 16, 2010

As the boxing vs. MMA hype train begins to gain steam with the UFC's signing of James Toney, it's easy to forget that Toney was not the first truly viable and well known pugilist to cross over to MMA.
Some time ago, long before Toney was making his intentions known, the world class and world renowned Ricardo Mayorga and Shine Fights matchmaker Ron Foster sat down and made a deal.  That deal was to bring Mayorga over to MMA and see what he could do.
That deal included Foster's commitment to not pad Mayorga's MMA career with easy fights or tune up matches.  Mayorga's belief in himself led him to demand to be judged by his talents as a fighter, and his desire to go to war with only the best Foster could offer.  Not unlike a majority of his boxing career has been fought.
Foster talked about his approach with Mayorga, and how he came to choose Din Thomas as his first opponent in the MMA world. 
"Mayorga is a very complicated guy.  The guy is not a boxer and that's what people don't understand," Foster said. "They look at him and think, 'This guy competed in boxing and had success; he must be boxer.'  This guy is not a boxer, he's a fighter. He has been fighting on the streets since he was 14 years old to put food on the table for his family." 
Anyone who knows the first thing about Mayorga would completely agree with that statement.  He never was the most technical boxer in the first place, but a banger, with little regard for what was expected in the ring.  
Ron went on to explain how he came to the conclusion he did with regard to Mayorga's first opponent.  "He came to us and said, 'Hey, I want to fight in MMA, and I want to fight the best guy you can possibly get me.'" 
Foster saw that elite quality in Thomas.  ""We had a few guys in mind, and Din stood out.  He (Din) stepped up and said that he wanted to take the fight."
The duo will meet at Shine III, Worlds Collide on May 15.
Din Thomas is a guy who has been very vocal about his discontent with the apparent disrespect many in the boxing community have for MMA.  Surely that played a role in him stepping up for a shot at the former boxing world champ.  
Ron defended what some point to as a debatable decision to put a guy with no MMA fights up against a crafty veteran like Thomas (25-8).
"I know a lot of people question our reasoning for matching him up with Din Thomas," he said.  "Well it's simple, he said if you're not going to give me a top guy, I'm not going to fight.  So we want to give him what he wants."
And who can blame them?  Shine will be the very first to put a world class boxer in a cage with a battle-tested modern mixed martial artist.  It is not as if Mayorga just graduated from college, or is coming off an Olympic run.  The man knows war, the man knows how to absorb and inflict damage. 
Foster addressed the risks of such a bold move for both fighters.  "Hey, it may be trial by fire, we don't know.  You have to be careful what you wish for.  And that goes for both of the guys.  Din better be careful what he wishes for.  He thinks he can stand and out box Mayorga, and Mayorga thinks that he can knock anybody out.  So both of them are going to get their wish, and I think it's going to be a very intriguing fight."
Intriguing indeed Ron, and it will answer a lot of questions about how effective a boxer can be in a cage fight.  Foster went on to say, "I'm really excited about what we did.  You've got a guy in his mid-thirties, Mayorga, one of the biggest boxers crossing over to MMA."
"Then you've got Din Thomas.  He's a very well-respected guy who has beat some of the top fighters in the UFC.  He beat Matt Serra, former WW champion, he beat Clay Guida, and Jeremy Stephens."  He then pointed to a very real fact, "This fight will really tell a lot with regard to Mayorga's MMA career."
Beyond the fight itself, and any outcome that may come to be, Foster also explained his desire to bring the communities together under one banner to cheer for their sports and their competitors. 
"I think what we're doing is very important," he said. "It has always been the whole boxing vs. MMA thing.  The thing of it is, they're two different sports.  It's like us comparing basketball and football.  It's not a war between those two sports, so why should there be a war between ours?" 
Foster went on to explain the historical relevance of this match. "It's a combat sport, boxers should respect MMA fighters and vice versa.  And this kind of goes back to the throwback days of the UFC.  People wanted to know. You could throw a boxer in there with a wrestler and see who wins, or a karate guy with a muay thai guy."
Foster believes in the elite quality of both fighters. "This is taking two guys who are at the pinnacle of their careers.  Mayorga is a three-time world champion. Din Thomas holds wins over a UFC champion and a Strikeforce champion. These are two very well-respected fighters.  Us bringing that together is huge for both sides." 
The potential Foster sees in this event is inspiring as a fight fan.  "You've going to have all your boxing fans say I can't wait for a real boxer to go out there and knockout an MMA guy, and you have your MMA fans who say I can't wait to see this boxer get smashed by an MMA guy.  At the end of the day people should want to see a good fight.  And whoever wins wins; it could be a win win for both sports." 
Foster and Shine are not looking to facilitate fanning the flames but rather introduce the finer points to those who may not know.  "So we really are looking to get the boxing fans to watch the show rooting for Mayorga, and leave MMA fans not just boxing fans.  That's what our goal is. We were lucky enough to bring over somebody like Mayorga.  He has a huge following all over the world." 
In closing Foster had this to say: "Hopefully these people, they watch these fights, they might come to watch a boxer beat an MMA fighter, and they might leave and they might say hey MMA is really good.  Hopefully, they leave wanting to come back and see more.  I think it's going to be really good. I'm really excited about this card."
Ron Foster, you are not the only one my friend.  Add to this fight a matchup between "Ninja" Rua (18-10) and "Niko" Vitale (26-9), and Abu Dhabi Absolute winner Braulio Estima vs. Olympic Judo player Rick Hawn, and you've got a great foundation to an explosive fight card. 
The potential here is limitless, for entertainment value, for relations between MMA and boxing, and perhaps how history perceives the fine line the separates two of the greatest fan bases in all of sports.