Have you noticed something about the promotion for UFC 118? The number one contender fight between Kenny Florian and Gray Maynard has been all but forgotten. BJ Penn and Frank Edgar will do battle for the Lightweight championship in the main event but even that hasn't gotten the lion share of the marketing. Most of the money has been spent plugging the James Toney-Randy Couture freak show. Jonathen Snowden at Bloody Elbow wrote a post explaining why this might be a bad idea:
I have to wonder what the end game here is? Is it so important that the ancient Randy Couture defend the sport of MMA against the equally ancient James Toney? What does that prove to anyone? It's been evident since day one that boxers would have a pretty rough go at it inside the Octagon. No one believes that Toney has much of a shot-and, sadly, no one really cares. This won't prove that MMA is "better than" boxing. Would watching Julius Peppers charge the mound against Steve Strasburg prove football is better than baseball?
This is a freakshow, plain and simple. It's a worthless time killer of a bout that only becomes valuable with a Toney knockout. Now that, that would be a bonanza-the resulting matchup with the heavyweight champion would do beaucoup bucks. And maybe that's Dana's master plan. Perhaps this was the only high profile matchup that the Zuffa brass believes Toney has a real chance to win. Is Zuffa secretly rooting for James Toney, hoping against hope for a potential fight with Brock Lesnar? The mind boggles.
I have to agree with Snowden here. The first question asked in regards to a potential fight is, of course, who would win? If you already know the answer then what's the point in even having the fight? At the UFC 116 post fight press conference Dana gave his answer to that question:
"No, we're going to make an example of James Toney." ...
"It's become this whole UFC versus boxing thing," White said. "I said it before and I'll say it again: I'm always yapping about people who do freak shows. I'm doing one. I got sucked into one. James Toney talked a lot of smack, and he picked a fight and now it's going to happen."
So he wants to put this fight on....because Toney ran his mouth? That doesn't make sense. Maybe because Toney is such a great talker? It's really easy for White to promote a fight with a guy like Toney because Toney will do all the leg work. He's already out there shouting on the rooftops to anyone that will listen that he's going to knock Randy Couture out. The problem lies within the fact that no one believes him. From Max Kellerman's Twitter:
"Love Toney, he'd win easily in a boxing match, just like Kobe'd beat Pujols in basketball. They're competing in Randy's sport, Randy wins. Couture by submission quickly."
This sentiment is echoed by every major sportswriter to journalist to blogger to guy on the street who casually watches boxing or MMA. That's the main problem. No one thinks Toney can win so no one much cares about the fight outside of MMA fans. There is a fear within the MMA fan community that if Toney wins then Boxing truly is the better sport. This fear is rooted in the insecurity created in the fact that Boxing gets more mainstream coverage than MMA. The struggle to legitimize the sport is constant and any threat to the progress that's been made is met with extreme hostility. This is, of course, a ridiculous line of thought. A Toney win means very little in the grand scheme of things. But so does a win by Couture.
Take in the fight and enjoy the spectacle. It should be fun, if nothing else. Make no mistake, this is a freak show that means very little. The fight before it and the fight after it deserve much more attention. Freak shows have their place though and I'll certainly enjoy it while it's here. Don't feel bad for doing the same.