Seeing Is Believing

(The following post was written by yours truly for the great No Mas Online. It’s good to be back with my old friends over there and I thank Large for the opportunity to share my thoughts with his readership. For Large’s views on this story click here.)

“UFC’s champions can’t handle boxing. That’s why they are in UFC. Put one of our guys in UFC and he’d be the champion. Any good fighter, he’d straight knock them out…Take Chuck Liddell, put him in the ring with a (boxer) who is just 10-0 and Chuck Liddell would get punished.”

-Floyd Mayweather Jr.
April 2007

To those who follow mixed martial arts, Floyd Mayweather’s latest flirtation with the sport is actually old news. Think back to the weeks leading up to De La Hoya-Mayweather. At this point, the boxing vs. MMA debate was the talk of the combat sports world and naturally Money May felt compelled to dress down MMA (while Mayweather mentions the “UFC” in his quote I have to think that he was talking about the sport in general. Contrary to what the UFC says, there are, in fact, other viable MMA organizations out there).

In light of his comments, UFC president Dana White reportedly offered up then-UFC Lightweight Champion (155 lbs), Sean Sherk, to face Mayweather and settle the debate once and for all. I mean, that’s why MMA was created in the first place, right? To see which form of combat sports would reign supreme in a given match or tournament. However, for one reason or another, any talk of an MMA vs. Boxing mega-fight quickly died down following Mayweather-DLH (and, no, Kimbo Slice vs. Ray Mercer doesn’t count).

Now comes news that Mark Cuban is trying to lure Mayweather to compete for his new MMA promotion – HDNet Fights. ESPN and every other sports news outlet under the sun is buzzing over this rumor but let it be known that it was in an interview with JarryPark.com that Cuban first mentioned his intentions of signing Mayweather to an MMA fight.

Truth be told, I have some mixed feelings about all this. I honestly don’t believe that we will ever see Mayweather fight an MMA match anytime soon. Maybe in five years when all his mega boxing fights have been accounted for but, right now, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The biggest issue with these discussions is that both sports are actually really different. Just because an athlete runs in a football match and a basketball game doesn’t make the sports similar. But I suppose that’s a different argument for a different day.

Let’s forget about my cynical ways for one second. Let’s just say he really is interested in settling this debate once and for all. In order for this fight to be presented properly there are several hurdles to conquer: First off, he will probably have to go up against a featherweight MMA fighter (145 lbs). While White offered Sherk as a potential opponent, I can’t see Mayweather fighting at 155 lbs nor could I see Sherk or any other MMA lightweight fighter move down to 145 or 147. Right now, the top 145-pounder in the world is the current World Extreme Cagefighting champion, Urijah Faber. He may also be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world too. The problem with Faber is that his contract is owned by Zuffa (the parent company of the UFC). Cuban has 30 million dollars to spend on a guy like Mayweather. Zuffa doesn’t and it would never lend out one of its fighters to another promotion. Witness the fact that they would rather let Randy Couture sit on the sidelines than co-promote a bout between him and the universally recognized top heavyweight fighter in the world – M-1 Global’s Fedor Emelianenko.

The next problem is that the WEC is home to most of the top featherweight fighters in North America (Jens Pulver and Jeff Curran come to mind) so if Mayweather really wants to prove himself against the best, well, he is barking up the wrong tree by dealing with Cuban.

That said, they don’t call him Money May for nothing. If Cuban is really interested in signing him for 30 million dollars he could challenge a top Japanese fighter like Akitoshi Tamura or Takeshi Inoue. It would be like Inoki-Ali all over again! On second thought, maybe we would rather not see that again.

Anyhow, for the sake of this discussion, let’s just say Mayweather and Faber end up fighting each other. For Mayweather’s debut to truly mean something to MMA fans Faber needs to be the one representing the sport. The California Kid is almost as cocky as Pretty Boy Floyd (almost), holds an impressive record of 20-1 and is currently enjoying a 12-fight winning streak.

But here comes Mayweather’s next hurdle: Faber is a former Division 1 college wrestler, the all-time wins leader for UC Davis (how’s that for a coincidence Mr. Large?) and a two-time NCAA D-1 qualifier. Simply put, the man can wrestle. Mayweather, on the other hand, can’t.

So, the fight begins. Mayweather is dancing around feeling his opponent out and looking to work in his jab and then…BAM! Faber shoots on him and takes him to the ground. Unchartered territory for the boxing champ, indeed. MMA purists love to point out that you can always teach a wrestler how to box but it’s a lot tougher to teach a boxer how to wrestle. They just aren’t used to it. Furthermore, a former wrestling champion like Brock Lesnar will probably make a smooth transition into MMA (his UFC debut is on 2/2/08, by the way) because his wrestling skills will lead to a better understanding of jiu jitsu which is the foundation of MMA. You see, Faber’s wrestling skills will only take him so far in an MMA match. Once he is on the ground he then goes into jiu jitsu mode. He can look for the ground-and-pound or a whole host of different submissions. How in the world is Mayweather going to defend this? Does he know how to fight off his back? Does he know how fight off an arm-bar submission or a rear-naked choke? Of course not, although he could certainly learn.

And that’s where the next and final hurdle comes in. For Mayweather to successfully compete in MMA he needs to learn at least two (maybe three) fighting disciplines. Learn them. From scratch. We’ll give him a pass on kickboxing but there is no way he can enjoy the kind of success he is used to in an MMA cage without mastering the art of wrestling and jiu jitsu. Faber has been at this for several years now. He’s also been honing his boxing skills since making the transition from wrestling to MMA. This could be one of his easier fights ever.

Mayweather has been actively competing in professional boxing for over eleven years. As witnessed in 24/7, his body has experienced its fair share of bumps and bruises. Is he even able (or willing) to learn two new fighting disciplines at this stage of his career? That remains to be seen.

Floyd, you won’t be fooling anyone by taking a fight against another boxer turned MMA fighter where they never go to the ground once yet are competing inside a cage. That’s not MMA. If you really wants to excel in your new-found “interest” go away for 18 months – at least. Learn jiu jitsu, learn how to wrestle and while your at it learn how to throw some kicks. Then we can talk. Until then, shut up and fight Miguel Cotto already.

7 thoughts on “Seeing Is Believing”

  1. This is the best breakdown I have seen of the Mayweather situation. Your connections are amazing.

    Here is my issue: Floyd isn’t young by any means, and he hasn’t practiced MMA in his life, or at least not as much as someone in that field. How would that affect him in a fight, even against a decent fighter? I don’t think he would have a chance, unless someone took a dive …

  2. Whats with every sports writer telling just about every athlete to shut up and entertain me damn are they not people

  3. Taks – you are pretty much saying the same thing I did. So, yes, I agree.

    Richard – no, Floyd says he wants to conquer MMA. He thinks he has nothing left to prove in boxing. I say he has yet to conquer Miguel Cotto.

    Pdiddyvb – Actually, his brittle hands may be a reason for his interest MMA. He wouldn’t have to solely rely on them.

    Ceedat – No they aren’t.

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