There was a bit of stir last week when Dan Rafael and Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported that the vacationing Floyd Mayweather was in talks with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban about the possibility of him participating in an MMA bout on his HDNet Fights series.
"If I said there's a guaranteed $30 million payday, Floyd would be lacing them up," Cuban is quoted as saying in the story. Now if you've seen the way Cuban overpays for much of his NBA roster (just look at what he shelled out for Devean George), it's conceivable that Cuban would make such an extravagant offer.
At the very least, Mayweather got himself back in the news without even stepping into the ring (or cage). From 24/7 to 'Dancing with the Stars', he's become quite the shrewd self-promoter. And because of that he became the highest paid athlete in 2007 not named
Tiger Woods with his blockbuster pay-per-view outings against Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton.
But make no doubt about it, he ain't getting into mixed martial arts. He got his headlines and that's all he wanted. He's much too smart of a manager to actually get in there.
"It makes no sense; he's not going to be successful at it," says UFC welterweight contender Marcus Davis, who more than anybody has a unique perspective on this issue, having been a professional boxer from 1993 to 2000. 'The Irish Hand Grenade' compiled a mark of 17-1-2 with 12 knockouts before transitioning into mixed martial arts.
"It's not going to happen," says Davis of Mayweather's rumored foray, "and if he does anything and tries to be successful at it, it's going to be him fighting a bunch of stiffs and bums and he's not going to get any recognition from it."
Of course, in the past Mayweather had perfected the art of fighting 'stiffs and bums' and getting paid quite lucratively for it. But since HBO isn't involved, that's no longer an option.
"If he goes and he fights anybody that people are going to look at, somebody in MMA that's 20-8 or something, he gets knocked out, stopped, or submitted in one minute. So he'll look like a fool."
In other words, like Michael Jordan trying to hit a curve ball or Muhammad Ali facing Antonio Inoki. But much more dangerous.
"The sports aren't even related," Davis says of the difference between boxing and MMA. "I tell my friends, 'It's like this - boxing is like basketball. MMA is like basketball with no fouls. So once you do that, it's not basketball anymore. They're not related at all. You're hands are basically tied up, per se; in boxing, you can punch and that's it. And you can get away with doing a lot of stuff. All that herky-jerky movement where guys lean away and slip to the side and lean back away from punches - you can't do that in MMA. You can't do it because you leave your legs there and your legs get chopped or you get taken down."
Boxers face some severe disadvantages in mixed martial arts. One, they aren't conditioned to protect against kicks on the lower half of their body.
"I never respected it (MMA) at all," says Davis, who initially believed that his boxing and striking skills would be able to carry him through. "When I first started, I was like, 'C'mon now, it's a kick to the leg. That's never going to hurt me.' Until I got kicked in the leg by somebody who knew exactly what they were doing. And then the next three days I was bed-ridden and my legs were locked up and I had blood clots in my legs."
Then there is the issue of the ground game; simply put, boxers aren't very good once they are taken off their feet.
"He'll have to relearn everything," Davis says of Mayweather. "He is not going to be able to fight in an MMA cage the way he boxes. It's impossible. It's not going to work. He will be taken down to the ground. He can't be a boxer. There's no such thing as a successful boxer boxing in MMA. It's going to have to be a boxer transitioning to MMA and learning the skills you need to know."
Which is precisely what Davis did seven years ago.
"I was actually bored with boxing," says Davis, who has crafted a solid career with the UFC. "On top of the politics and everything else that goes with boxing, I saw MMA - I was watching it when it first started in '93, the first UFC, anyways - and I just knew that it was going to blow up. I just knew it was a matter of time and I knew I wanted to get into it right at that time when I did and I wanted to be in it right when it started to blow up, which is what I've done at the perfect time."
Money was a factor in his decision. Unlike Mayweather, he wasn't earning $20 million a fight.
"At the stage that I'm at, I made more money in my last fight than I did my entire boxing career," says Davis, who made "six-figures" for his last outing. "Out of all my fights (boxing), I fought on ESPN a bunch of times, NESN. No big venues but Foxwoods, but all over New England, and I never made any real money."
But the metamorphosis took some time. It was like a sprinter becoming a decathlete. Davis says it wasn't till about a year-and-half, two years ago that he felt fully comfortable as an MMA fighter.
"Since then I've felt comfortable. I'm not worried about the fight happening in any place and I haven't lost a fight since then. So it really took till then. I was always worried about being taken down to the ground and it happened. I was always too cautious and I waited too long to commit to a punch because I was afraid the guy would shoot underneath and take me to the ground. You can't fight like that in MMA. You've just got to let it all hang out and if you hit the ground you've got to be able to fight on the ground," said Davis, who started, in his own words, "experimenting" with some MMA maneuvers in 1995 and took part in unsanctioned contests in 2000 before having his first officially recorded match in 2003.
The learning curve for Davis was steep as he hung up his Everlasts.
"It takes time and you have to be intelligent. You have to be dedicated and you have to be with a good camp. You have to have total trust in the people that are teaching you, that when they're showing you something, you're not saying in the back of your head, 'That looks like crap' or 'that's not going to work' or 'that wouldn't work on me,' whatever. You've got to have total faith that what you're being taught is the real deal. If he (Mayweather) thinks all he's got to do is stop the takedown, somebody is going to get him down and keep him there," he says.
And there were some big adjustments that Davis had to make. For one thing, MMA practitioners have much more rigorous training regimens than boxers on a day-to-day basis.
"When I was a boxer, one day you did your roadwork in the morning and then you go to your gym and you did the fight training and spar. Then the next day might be your weightlifting rather than your roadwork day and then that night you're doing your boxing training," he explains. "Whereas in MMA, I wake up, and first thing in the morning I do a plyometric workout. Then I go home and I eat. Then I go to the gym and lift my weights.
Then I go home and I eat and I rest. Then I go to the gym and I do technical training. Then I go home and I rest. Then I go back to the gym and do my sparring. Then I go home and I go to bed. And I wake up the next morning and start all over again."
There are also the issues of physical strength. Because of the grappling that takes place in MMA, a premium is put on weight training.
"All you need to do is to look at a picture of me when I first started doing this," says the 34-year old Davis, who participated in the second season of the UFC reality show, 'The Ultimate Fighter'. "Every time I fight, (UFC color commentator) Joe Rogan just says it's unbelievable how much my body has changed. When I first started doing this I was a real thin, lean 160-pounder, basically fighting in the 170-pound division. Now, I'm walking around in my time off and I'm like 190 pounds and muscled up."
Then there is the issue of the eight and ten ounce gloves that Mayweather is accustomed to compared to the four to six ounce gloves worn in MMA.
"It's a huge difference," he says. "Keeping your hands up with a boxing glove on and covering up and stuff isn't the same. It's harder for a boxing glove to penetrate the gloves. You can get away with just keeping your hands up by your chin and moving your hand a little bit. That doesn't work in MMA because those little tiny gloves are going to penetrate through and you just really got to touch somebody. You don't have to really hit somebody as hard as you can."
It's akin to the difference in the sweet spot of a wooden baseball bat and one composed of aluminum.
"In boxing, you’ve got to really land a really good, solid, vicious punch or it's gotta be a punch that they don't see."
And according to Davis, because of the nature of the two sports, the three, five minute rounds (five, five minute rounds in championship bouts) in MMA are much more strenuous than a ten round fight in boxing, with its three minute frames.
"It's much, much harder on you both musclewise and on your cardio because there's no break," he explains. "Boxing you can move around, dance around, jab, circle, lay on the ropes, play rope-a-dope, take a round off. You can't do that in MMA because when you’re in the clinch you're getting hit with elbows and knees and you're defending the takedown. You're throwing kicks and punches, and its non-stop."
Davis believes that Mayweather, should he actually do this, would need at least a year of training to step into the cage for a real fight.
"If he committed himself to learning some stuff and in six months he trained his ass off and then in six months they put him in there with a stiff that was suited for him, that's no risk for him and then he could see, 'Hey, this is actually how it's going to feel to be in a cage.'"
As for facing a legitimate top ten fighter, Davis believes, "He's going to lose in just a couple of minutes." And when it comes to guys named (Sean) Sherk and (Kenny) Florian, "Those guys would just destroy him. The fight would end in under two minutes."
The MMA community would love for Mayweather to dip his toe into this shark tank.
"Oh, yeah, all the MMA fighters that are in the upper echelon anyways, all your guys who are top 20, top 30 guys, are all just chomping at the bit, going, 'I want to be the guy that beats Mayweather.'"
And Davis is no different.
"Of course, I'm right with those guys because I've been a boxer and I know where the holes lie, I know what scares a boxer, I know what boxers are worried about. I know how to exploit that."
Unfortunately for him, he's much too big for Mayweather, but regardless, Davis would watch intently.
"I would love to watch it happen," says Davis, whose next bout is in three weeks at UFC 80 in Newcastle, England. "It's like when you know a car crash is going to happen. You're going, 'Oh, I don't want to see this,' but you don't take your eyes off it."
Thomas Hauser wrote an excellent article on Secondsout.com on the ticket gouging (and its ramifications) that took place during Mayweather's fight against Ricky Hatton on December 8th.
It didn't come as a shock that Mayweather’s crew may have scalped a large block of their alloted tickets; after all, his adviser Al Haymon came from the concert business, so he'd have intimate knowledge on the business of ticket brokering.
What was disappointing was that Hatton's camp - which had complained about getting just 3,900 tickets for the fight - had sold their tickets, according to Hauser's story, with a 30-percent mark-up.
It seems as though Hatton exploited the loyalty of his own fanbase. Could it be - if this is true – that Hatton wasn't upset about the fans that were left without tickets, but that he didn't have more tickets to gouge them with?
Now, it'll be interesting to see how tickets are handled for the Bernard Hopkins-Joe Calzaghe fight, which looks to be headed to Las Vegas in April. Not only from the perspective of the Nevada State Athletic Commission and HBO, but even the IRS.
NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
The 2008 season of Friday Night Fights on ESPN2 actually began on the last Friday of 2007, but Teddy Atlas was already in mid-season form from the get-go.
At the very beginning of the telecast, Atlas would tell the audience that they were going to bring them some good boxing, but on a telecast that featured Dominick Guinn-Robert Hawkins as the main event - it wasn't going to be on this particular night. Bottom line, there is no other commentator that I can think of, in any sport, that would be as bluntly honest as Atlas with their viewing audience.
I'm pretty sure the higher-ups at 'the worldwide' weren't pleased with Atlas' comments, but if you were to ask them privately, they'd be hard-pressed to disagree with him.
Atlas is the conscience of that broadcast. And it's one of the reasons why you keep watching 'FNF' even when the fights aren't the greatest.
I have to say, the UFC 79 co-main event of Chuck Liddell-Wanderlei Silva was a very entertaining affair that I enjoyed. The other co-main - I already forgot who was in it (Georges St-Pierre and Matt Hughes – ed) - made me fall asleep....RIP to Stu Nahan, who made notable appearances in the 'Rocky' movies and 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High'. He was a fixture to any young sports fan who grew up in Southern California for his daily sportscasts on various networks....Next week’s edition of 'FNF' should be much better with Allan Green facing Rubin Williams..... In addition to that, Telefutura returns and Shobox has a doubleheader featuring Anthony and Lamont Peterson....Is Devin (to the House) Hester the greatest kick returner ever? Not yet, but he's getting there. I remember watching him live and in person at the Cal-Florida All-Star game in 2002, where he took one back and thinking to myself, 'Y'know, this guy might be pretty good at this'.... Ok, now that Oscar and Millie had their second child (congratulations, by the way) can 'The Golden Boy' finally make up his mind so that other fighters such as Miguel Cotto can go and make their plans for 2008?