(Ariel Helwani gets his interview time with Dana White rudely interrupted.)
The entertaining little mating dance between Dana White and James Toney may have finally reached the point where a decision is inevitable. After Toney materialized in Las Vegas this weekend to call out DW yet again, it ought to be clear enough that he isn’t going to get bored and lose interest all on his own. Partly that’s because Toney probably doesn’t have a whole lot else going on in his life, but partly it’s because, whatever you think of his abilities as a fighter, dude is persistent.
If White doubted that before, he doesn’t after Toney appeared like a mumbling angel on his shoulder this weekend. It’s time to either set the guy up with a fight or else stop letting him into these damn press conferences.
Since option number two is obviously no fun, I vote for option number one. Toney may be a 41-year-old, semi-brokedown former boxing great. His best years, along with his days of speaking clearly and coherently, may be behind him. If he were signing on to fight for another MMA organization, White would be quick to cite all that as evidence that his competitors don’t respect the sport or its fans.
That’s more of rhetorical technique than anything White really, truly believes. He’s a fight promoter, after all. Sooner or later some pro boxer is going to fight in the UFC, and that’s the way it should be. As long as Bruce Buffer gets on the mic before every main event and refers to the Octagon as the world’s ultimate “proving ground” for fighters, it only makes sense to let a delusional boxer or two wander in and find out just how much they don’t know about mixed martial arts. And as long as it’s going to happen eventually, why not let it happen to Toney?
In the past, White’s argument against this has been that boxers don’t really want to make a career out of MMA. They want a quick paycheck and they want people to pay attention to them again. Surely, that’s also the case with Toney. But so what?
All that means is that the UFC has no vested interest in giving him the Kimbo treatment and setting him up with an opponent who can’t exploit his weaknesses. They can give him someone with great takedowns and vicious ground-and-pound, someone who can put him on his back and turn his face to pulp. That’s going to be a bad night in Toney’s life, and it probably won’t do much to convince the boxing die-hards that MMA is more complex than they think. Again, so what?
If Toney wants this beating so bad that he’s willing to put on tie and pester White wherever he goes, let him have it. A certain segment of the population that doesn’t normally watch MMA might tune it to see it, and – who knows? – they might even like it. Either way, it’s easier than a restraining order and it will get Toney to leave DW alone. My guess is that after he gets a taste of what it’s like inside the cage, he won’t want another.