It's finally here. Well...at least the pre-event press conference anyway.
On a rainy and dreary Wednesday afternoon, the major players for this Saturday's UFC 118 card in Boston took center stage inside historic Fanueil Hall. Standing in front of antique paintings in a spot where famous American revolutionaries spoke, MMA revolutionaries Dana White, Randy Couture and BJ Penn said their piece to a near packed house of media and fans alike.
The star of the show was Toney, who playfully answered questions and stood his ground among the hornet's nest of questions he's been getting all along. Can you pull this off? Can boxing beat MMA? Do you have a chance?
"I'm hungry. People say that I can't. I'm ready...ropes or cage? It doesn't matter. I do it big in boxing and big in MMA," Toney said.
White, clad in a faded Red Sox t-shirt, was excited to bring the UFC to his adopted hometown. However, the UFC's head honcho didn't say anything particularly noteworthy during the open portion of the presser. He also didn't provide his usual rap session after the presser as he's done in the past.
One of the reasons? A steady stream of one-on-one interviews with local media and more of the national types with full video equipment. Despite what some pundits will say about White, he is a believer in the sport and will do endless interviews to spread the gospel and it will continue for the next three days.
If there was an MMA evangelist, Dana White would be it.
Standout White quote: "You won't catch me kissing ass." This was in reference to whether White would wear a NY Yankees shirt if the UFC runs a show in New York. There was a rumor White was going to throw out the first pitch at Fenway Park Wednesday.
The Toney Effect
As much as the MMA industry has dumped on Toney for his attitude toward the sport, he's also playing a role -- one that is helping sell the event from the co-main event position.
Clad in a designer t-shirt, flat brim cap and showing more diamonds than Tiffany's, Toney answered all questions fired at him, even if the answers were unintelligible at times. He joked with White repeatedly and also seemed bored in spots as well, notably at one point when Kenny Florian was talking.
When it came to discussing Couture, Toney towed the same line as he has been since the fight was announced. At one point, Couture was asked about pre-fight trash talk and said he doesn't get into it. Toney responded, "Oooooh!" He is trying to get Couture irritated, but it's not working.
When both men squared off for the post-event picture seen here, they were respectful and shook hands. While the overwhelming consensus is that Couture will have no problem dispatching Toney, the heavyweight champ of some organization has played his role well.
Standout Toney Quote: "They're all cowards." He was referencing the boxers that will not fight him.
Who's Really The Champ?
If you asked a layperson who the UFC Lightweight Champion was based on body language and responses alone, they would nearly be unanimous in pointing to the challenger, BJ Penn.
Penn seemed relaxed and confident, 100% focused on destroying Edgar and reclaiming the title that he thinks is his. Edgar, clad in a sports jacket with jeans and the title in front of him, gave simple answers and seemed tense at times, not laughing at various points of levity.
It could be nerves or it could be focus, but it's hard to look past the fact that Penn seems to be ready to finish Edgar Saturday night, constantly saying the word 'finish' throughout the afternoon.
Standout Penn quote: "I think I'll be at a 9." This was answering what level he'll be at Saturday on a 1-10 scale.
- White confirmed the winner of Kenny Florian/Gray Maynard will earn a shot at the Lightweight title.
- Gray Maynard is very funny, making several jokes and being very open when asked his questions. Florian - decked out in a suit - was business-like in his approach. He played off any insinuation that he felt pressure because he's a Boston guy and that he's been asked for plenty of tickets.
- Couture wasn't asked a lot of questions and insisted that he doesn't talk trash before fights. He was gracious for fans and interviews after the presser, as was everyone involved. This sport is unlike most in its accessibility to the media despite the successful nature of the business.
- Speaking of the media, there was a throng of local and national press from all the major players. Local media has picked up significantly this week, mostly on the print side. NESN cameras were present and I overheard that White may be taking a trip over to their studios Thursday.
The Boston Globe had a cover story and a front page sports spread today, while the Boston Herald also had features as well.
- There are still tickets available for the event and reportedly more than expected. It will be interesting to see how brisk business picks up over the next few days as coverage increases. With the Red Sox going into a major series with Tampa and the Patriots hosting a preseason game Thursday, the next few days will truly be a battle for attention.