James Toney Earned Every Penny the UFC Gave Him

Josh NasonSenior Analyst ISeptember 2, 2010

James Toney's early interview with Ariel Helwani helped set a tone for how MMA media covered him. (Credit: AOL Fanhouse)
James Toney's early interview with Ariel Helwani helped set a tone for how MMA media covered him. (Credit: AOL Fanhouse)

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the MMA community is raising hell at the news that James Toney earned $500k for his efforts against Randy Couture last Saturday at UFC 118.

However, the MMA community is wrong.

While Toney's performance was lackluster as expected, we all knew that was going to happen. No amount of training over the past six months was going to prepare him for what Couture -- or most mixed martial artists -- were going to throw at him that night.

Toney was brought in for several reasons:

  • He's a boxer of some name value that wanted to "cross the line" into MMA.
  • He was bold and confident enough to think he could beat Couture or at least, talk like he was going to.
  • He can sell a fight...at least to MMA fans and media.

Toney talked the talk for months, engaging reporters like Ariel Helwani early on and setting the tone for the firestorm of pre-fight build as part of the the co-main event of UFC 118. He did all the media he was asked to do and then some, all with the same tone and attitude. 

He knew his role: enrage MMA fans to the point they are willing to pay to see you get beat. Mission accomplished (or at least we think so until the PPV numbers come out). He played his hand in the mythical boxing vs. MMA debate perfectly, even though he must have known he was climbing up a steep, steep mountain in Mt. Couture.

It worked as Boston's TD Garden was electric for the fight. Even if it was a one-sided affair, people needed to see it happen and they did, chanting 'UFC' as loudly as they ever chanted 'Randy'. The UFC cooked up a marketing line and it worked to perfection.


So why shouldn't Toney earn some money for that?

Let's face facts here. Frankie Edgar/BJ Penn II was not carrying this event to a strong PPV number, even with Couture in the co-main event spot. There are few fighters that the UFC could match Couture up against that would still pop a solid buyrate these days and still gain the mainstream media attention in Boston.

Unfortunately, none made the right type of sense so UFC President Dana White went with what would make him dollars and cents. Can you blame him?

Suddenly, Toney came to the top of that list and Couture took the challenge of defending the sport. It's a good thing Toney did what he did as without him, the event wouldn't have been covered as hard as it was by the local Boston media. In addition, I will guarantee you Toney's pre-fight media blitz did more to sell the PPV than if he wasn't on the card.

Essentially, Toney become a marketing consultant for the night and for $500k, that's a bargain. Say this fight does 600,000 buys. At an average of $50, that's $30 million. You're telling me Toney didn't earn 1/60th of that? Please. He practically paid for himself.

Hate on Toney all you want for his comments toward MMA. Revile him for thinking a boxer could come into the Octagon and easily dispatch a Hall-of-Famer. Turn your back on him for his effort Saturday.

But don't say he didn't earn his money.

Josh Nason is a New England-based freelance MMA journalist that has live event coverage, has written for FIGHT! Magazine and frequently does radio/podcast appearances. Follow him on Twitter, will ya?