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James Toney: The Risk Is Not Worth The Reward

I am absolutely dumbfounded that Dana White is even considering booking James Toney on a future UFC card. The heavyweight boxer has been largely irrelevant in the boxing world ever since he tested positive for steroids after his 2005 victory over John Ruiz.

By fighting under the promotional engine that is the UFC, Toney stands to put himself back in the spotlight again while padding his bank account in the process. Conversely, the UFC might gain a few pay-per-view buys from some boxing diehards, but the credibility of the company (and the sport) will be damaged if White and company decide to put an aging heavyweight boxer with little name value in the Octagon.

Toney argues that if the company was willing to put a former street fighter in the cage then there’s no reason why a man who has held boxing gold should be denied the same opportunity. Sure there is.

From a business perspective, Kimbo’s presence guaranteed a substantial increase in viewership. He had received millions of YouTube hits for his street fights, and then went on to become ratings gold on CBS. Toney hasn’t had a fight on pay-per-view since his 2003 “>victory over Evander Holyfield, who was already past his prime. If the boxing world has deemed him not worth shelling out cash over, why would MMA fans?

From an athletic perspective, Kimbo had five MMA bouts before signing a UFC contract. On top of that, the company put him through The Ultimate Fighter — essentially a competition almost exclusively for prospects — instead of marketing him on pay-per-view as a legitimate contender. Kimbo also spent a few years actually training in mixed martial arts before he ever step foot in the Octagon. Toney absolutely has stellar boxing credentials, but it appears as though he has no desire to train in MMA. His assertion that he knows all about the “front kick, back kick, side check kick, all of that” make me think the exact opposite is true. Even Herschel Walker has been putting in substantial time at AKA.

If my point has yet to sound convincing, consider this comparison: Brock Lesnar entered the UFC with the WWE-stigma, but he had also undergone extensive MMA training, was in his physical prime, and brought the guarantee of lots and lots of new business. Toney is basically dismissing the need to learn any new tricks, is past his physical peak, and will likely have no significant impact on business.

If Toney actually wins against whomever the UFC pairs him up with, the “Ray Mercer Effect” will be seen on a large scale level. If a 41 year old boxer is able to walk into the Octagon with minimal (or no) MMA training and come out victorious, the sport’s detractors have a lot more fuel to throw on their anti-MMA fire. A loss allows the company to further drive home the (already known) fact that this MMA stuff requires proficiency in all levels of combat, not just one. But that’s been proven time and time again, so what’s the point?

It boils down to this: when it comes to a potential James Toney appearance on a future UFC card, the risk is simply not worth the reward.