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Sunday, January 17, 2010
The perfunctory James Toney mention

By Jake Rossen/Sherdog.com

"Toney is a fat, out-of-shape slob that should be retired. Sure, it's a money-making gimmick for Dana with a guy who's never been in the Octagon before, but it's a t--- of a fight and a farce. Hope it never happens."

Opinion from reader Kevin R. I might have said it differently, but I'm not sure I could say it any better.

In entertaining James Toney's gratuitous bid for a payday he can't find in boxing, the UFC is giving up a valuable bit of political jockeying in the media: the ability to blow snot at promotions who book similar sideshows. (Note that Dana White has had precious little to say about Herschel Walker's Strikeforce debut since the Toney opera.)

Naturally, this only matters if you frown upon a circus atmosphere; I certainly don't. Gross spectacle is what this sport was constructed on, like it or not, and providing the participants are physically fit and fairly paired, I don't care if Jean-Claude Van Damme steps into a ring. (Which he apparently will, in a Thai boxing fight later this year. And more on that later.)

The "fairly paired" part is something the UFC might have trouble with: In matching Toney against virtually anyone on their roster, they're essentially throwing a piece of raw meat into a lion's den. A pure boxer -- with some extremely hollow claims to have trained kicks and grappling -- against a mixed martial artist is a sketchy and predictable business. Unless the fighter is an idiot, the boxer will lose.

If you're going to do spectacle, embrace spectacle: Give Toney a similarly one-dimensional athlete with an 0-0 mixed-fight record to make things interesting. If his TNA obligations could be stifled for a bit, Kurt Angle would be perfect; an Olympic wrestler near Toney's age who would be just as nervous as Toney. It's a big, silly one-off fight, and the winner has no station in the sport. But so what? You're not going to build Toney into a contender, are you?

Booking these types of fights is no big embarrassment as long as some self-awareness is involved. I'd happily pay to see a high-level boxer/wrestler match. But if the UFC insists on treating him like a contender, the only one paying will be Toney.