by Paul Magno
Dear Randy Couture,
First, congratulations on your victory over James Toney last Saturday night. Any win is a good one and any pay day is appreciated, especially in a combat sport where you never know when your livelihood will be taken from you. I sincerely hope that you will explore the possibility of meeting James Toney’s bravery with a similar, groundbreaking gesture by entering the boxing ring with Toney or a equally skilled professional boxer.
You’ve conducted yourself with class and dignity throughout your career and I must say that I was taken aback by your willingness to enter into a professional mixed martial arts bout with a genuine novice making his mma debut at 42 years of age. Even you acknowledged this disparity in level during your post-fight interview. It just strikes me as odd that a competitor of your class and in your good standing would proudly enter into combat with someone so unprepared and essentially helpless.
I can understand why Dana White would sign on for such a farce. He’s built the UFC off the back of boxing and continues to do so by disparaging the sport whenever he finds a live mic or a willing notepad. He talks down boxing as frequently as he talks up his own sport. With the “UFC is killing boxing” myth dead and buried after his company got spanked twice in head to head pay-per-view battles with boxing, White was desperate for a grand gesture to further twist the knife in the sport he professes to love. The rumor going around is that he was even willing to pay Toney as much as $700,000 for the right to flip the finger to boxing.
And, no, I don’t buy White’s childish excuse for this freak show. The whole, “He called us out…He came looking for a fight,” routine just doesn’t cut it. If you run a clean ship, you don’t bend to juvenile taunts, especially if it’s at the expense of your sport’s credibility. Your don’t host a contest, control the terms, and green light a bout between an obviously untrained mma fighter against a Hall of Famer in a combat sport. At best, it’s silly and infantile…At worst, it’s deadly. Despite the fist-pumping, chest-thumping win, this fight set back the entire sport in terms of mainstream credibility. You don’t see Bud Selig telling LeBron James to “step up and let’s see if you can hit a major league curve ball!”
White was also crafty in the fighter he chose and the way he matched him up. Toney, with his stationary style and lack of conditioning, lacked any of the skills that would make an accomplished boxer succeed in the mma arena. He pitted him against you, Randy, a wrestler/grappler who would precisely compliment every deficiency Toney had in the octagon.
But, I guess you have your own reasons for taking this fight. The paycheck may have been one reason; The exposure, another. Let’s face it, at 47, there isn’t much career ahead of you. This high-profile bout will get your name out there and into the heads of TV and movie producers and it will also boost your leverage in terms of future UFC bouts. This was a career “no-brainer” for you, but that doesn’t make it right.
I’m a boxing man through and through and don’t have much use for mma. I find the bouts not very compelling and the UFC product, especially, lacking in class. I have respect for the sport and tons of respect for the athletes, but it’s just not my cup of tea. And these are not the words of someone bearing a grudge or of someone expressing sour grapes. I knew the outcome of last Saturday’s bout from the moment it was first rumored. Toney walked into the ambush and he bears responsibility as well.
No, this is about what’s right.
I hate to say it, but you lent your name to a farce that disgraced your honorable reputation. The damage is done, maybe not in your UFC world, but to your standing as a true sportsman. The only real recourse at this point is to return the favor and put yourself out there in the same way Toney did. Let’s see you in the ring against a real opponent. Let’s not go crazy and put you in with the Klitschkos; That would be too much of a mismatch. Toney, as a fringe Top 20 boxer, would do fine. If not him, let’s say David Haye or Tomasz Adamek. Even a shot and nearly unlicenseable Evander Holyfield would do.
The fact of the matter is, despite the general sleaziness of boxing’s sanctioning bodies and of many commissions, nobody would book such an obvious mismatch.
A real sport doesn’t sanction such farces.