The signing of NABO/IBA heavyweight boxing champion James Toney by the UFC managed to put fans and pundits in quite a tizzy ever since the day it was announced.
Nevertheless, the time has come for him to finally strut his way inside the octagon.
This Saturday, August 28, he will officially make his MMA debut in Boston at the UFC 118 event when he faces Randy Couture.
“Lights Out” is simply the latest in a long line of boxing types looking to take the leap of faith, although it has become a bit of a trendy aspiration of late.
The floodgates appear to have opened ever since Ray Mercer, the former WBO heavyweight champion, infamously knocked out former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia in a mere nine seconds back in June 2009.
Mercer may have very well galvanized the recent trend with a single right cross.
Former WBA/WBC welterweight champion and WBC junior middleweight champion Ricardo Mayorga jumped in the fray and was set to fight Din Thomas under the Shine Fights banner, although the rug was pulled out from underneath it at the last minute.
Current title-holders Danny Green and BJ Flores have even entertained the idea in recent months.
It is crystal clear there is rampant curiosity from “sweet science” practitioners, whether it is out of the need for a paycheck, a bit of limelight, or simply to find another outlet to compete.
With the “MMA vs. Boxing” theme prominently woven into the fabric of the UFC’s marketing campaign for UFC 118, it is only fitting to examine some of the well-known MMA fighters who have dipped their toes in the boxing realm in the past.
Here are a few notables:
Anderson Silva: (1–1 boxing), (27–4 MMA)
“The Spider” was technically a boxer before he was ever an MMA fighter.
He stepped into the ring for the first time in May 1998 in his native Brazil. He found himself on the wrong end of a second round TKO courtesy of Osmar Luiz Teixeira.
Teixeira had a significant experience advantage heading into the bout, having won 10 of his 12 fights prior.
In May 2000, Silva began his MMA quest and again stubbed his toe out of the gate. This time he lost a unanimous decision to Luiz Azeredo.
Fast forward five years of honing his MMA skills both in the gym and on the canvas.
In the middle of his tenure in the Cage Rage promotion, and in between knockout victories over Jorge Rivera and Curtis Stout, he returned to Brazil to once again try his hand at boxing.
This time, however, he would find success. He won via second-round knockout over Julio Cesar De Jesus.
As the story goes he would go on to become one of, if not the best MMA practitioner of all-time.
Along the way boxing has continued to be an infatuation for Silva, who cannot seem to shake the idea for good.
After his UFC 82 win over Dan Henderson he expressed interest in taking on Roy Jones Jr. when he walks away from MMA.
For now, with the retirement chatter on hold, it remains to be seen if he will ever find his way back to the ring.
KJ Noons – (11–2 boxing), (10–2 MMA)
Noons is technically the only MMA fighter mentioned in this article that remains active as a boxer.
After being stripped of his EliteXC lightweight belt in 2008 he decided to direct all his time and energy towards boxing.
Towards the latter end of 2008, and throughout the entire year of 2009, he fought in a total of five boxing matches, winning four.
He then returned to MMA in March 2010 and has rattled off a trio of successive, impressive victories over Andre Amade, Conor Huen, and Jorge Gurgel.
There’s no doubt his boxing skills have translated well to MMA. His ability to counter properly pays huge dividends in a sport that is still evolving as a whole in the standup department.
Instead of covering up and retreating or circling away from strikes, Noons stays in the pocket and punishes his opponents.
For his efforts, Strikeforce has granted him a title shot (and rematch) against current 170-pound kingpin Nick Diaz.
The pair first met in November 2007 in the EliteXC lightweight title match. Noons recorded a TKO victory as the bout was stopped after just one round due to a cut on the face of Diaz.
The pair will throw down on October 9 in San Jose. Circle the calendar.
Chris Lytle – (13–1–1 boxing), (29–17–5 MMA)
“Combat sports veteran” could be an understated designation for this Indiana native.
He’s competed professionally in a combined 66 bouts between boxing and MMA.
His boxing career spanned from 2002–2005. Competing solely in the Midwest he was pretty successful, winning 13 of his 15 fights, albeit against tempered competition.
He even managed to pick up some hardware along the way.
In April 2003, he won the IBA light heavyweight title after registering a TKO of John Moore.
Conversely, his MMA career began in 1999 and remains alive and kicking today.
Lytle will return to the octagon to take on former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra at the UFC 119 event in September.
Other Professional Boxing Records:
Nick Diaz (1–0)
Vitor Belfort (1–0)
Marcus Davis (17–1–2)
Melvin Guillard (0–1–1)
Patrick Cote (0–1)
Yves Edwards (2–0)
Mark Hunt (0–1–1)
Jens Pulver (4–0)
Alessio Sakara (6–1)
Derek Bolender is the lead MMA staff writer for BleacherReport.com. He has also contributed to outlets such as CBSSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine, and MMAmania.com.
Follow him on Twitter (@DerekBolender).