Friday, December 21, 2007 Updated: December 22, 9:21 PM ET
Mayweather mulling move to MMA in deal with Cuban
By Dan Rafael and Marc Stein ESPN.com
Floyd Mayweather Jr., the world's No. 1 boxer, is strongly considering a revolutionary jump to mixed martial arts under a deal being discussed with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather's adviser and best friend, told ESPN.com Friday night that the five-division world champion, who generated 3.25 million pay-per-view buys and more than $200 million in revenue in two megafights in 2007, came away from a Thursday meeting with Cuban giving serious thought to taking his game and considerable drawing power to MMA.
Mark Cuban on Floyd Mayweather's possible jump to MMA: "He wants to go on to the next big thing."
"It's definitely something he is interested in, and when Floyd makes his move, obviously it's going to be a mega event," Ellerbe said. "We don't have a timetable. Floyd is taking some time off, but Floyd understands what is involved. You have to take time to go out and understand what you're getting involved in, and he's ready to do that. But it's something he's definitely interested in doing.
"Mark Cuban is a very successful businessman and has some very, very successful business ventures that we've discussed. We're looking to do a lot of business with Mark. He's a great guy, and we had a great meeting. Doing an MMA event with him is most definitely something we are looking at, among many things we are looking at doing with Mark Cuban."
Mayweather's interest in participating in an MMA event was sparked after he struck up a friendship with Cuban during their participation this season as contestants on the ABC reality series "Dancing with the Stars."
Cuban was Mayweather's guest at the fight and even carried two of his championship belts into the ring before he knocked out England's Ricky Hatton to retain the welterweight world championship Dec. 8 in Las Vegas.
Mayweather and Cuban were together again Thursday in Las Vegas, where they met to discuss various business ventures, including Mayweather's participation in an MMA event.
A few boxers, such as former heavyweight contenders Ray Mercer and Frans Botha, have attempted to compete in mixed martial arts, but with little success. Mayweather's entrance would bring it to another level, especially at a time when the sports have been pitted against each other by fans and media -- MMA as the hotshot newcomer trying to overtake the century-old, more traditional sweet science.
One of Cuban's many business interests is ownership of HDNet Fights, a fledgling mixed martial arts promotional company that airs its bouts on Cuban's HDNet. Cuban promoted his second event Dec. 15 in Dallas.
"Floyd is considering fighting with HDNet Fights," Cuban told ESPN.com. "We are going to let him visit some gyms to talk to some folks about what it would take to learn. He knows it won't be easy. But he is getting involved with MMA and HDNet Fights one way or another. He is pumped about it. He wants to go on to the next big thing. Floyd is a brilliant marketer. He follows the money."
Indeed, Mayweather, like Cuban, knows how to make money. Mayweather, 30, won the year's two biggest fights, a decision against Oscar De La Hoya in May in a fight that shattered all boxing revenue records and a 10th-round knockout of Hatton that did 850,000 buys and $47 million in television revenue on HBO PPV.
Mayweather-De La Hoya, with 2.4 million buys, set the all-time PPV record. Mayweather-Hatton was the biggest PPV fight in history not involving De La Hoya or heavyweights Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.
Mayweather earned about $50 million for the two fights.
"If I said there's a guaranteed $30 million payday, Floyd would be lacing them up," Cuban said, optimistic that Mayweather would participate in an MMA match eventually. "If not, I could see him working to train and develop and invest in MMA fighters, knowing the upside. He can teach them how to be a better boxer and add to their other skills."
After each of his past three fights, Mayweather has talked about retirement, or at least an extended break. Ellerbe said that Mayweather is on vacation now but that when he returns, they'll discuss the prospect of an MMA bout in more detail.
"Floyd is about taking on challenges," Ellerbe said. "This ain't some kind of prank. That is one of many things we've talked about with Mark. Floyd would have to take time to really understand it, but it is most definitely something he is interested in."
Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer. Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.