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We’re Not Really Supposed to Believe James Toney is Working on His Ground Game, Are We?


(“Go ahead and strap that black belt on right here, Deano.”)

Amid concerns this week that James Toney may not yet have signed his formal bout agreement to face Randy Couture at UFC 118, reports surfaced that the former boxing champion had tabbed one-time Xtreme Couture affiliate Dean Lister and Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed Lawal to help shore up his ground game. To this, I say: Bullshit. Toney might be rolling with Lister and Lawal a bit just to keep up appearances, but there’s no way he’s making an honest effort to learn to grapple.

Look, in his day James Toney was nothing short of an unmitigated badass. He was a guy who took on all-comers in numerous weight classes and more often than not came out on top. Even at his advanced age he can still hit very, very hard. But Toney has never, especially in recent years, been overly committed to training. The idea that he would suddenly attempt to augment his skill-set three months before his MMA debut is far-fetched. The notion that – even if he did – he could close the grappling gap on Couture in that short amount of time is, well, ludicrous.


There are those among us who would argue that this bout, if it even happens, is in some way meaningful. They would have us believe that something big is on the line here – either MMA’s legitimacy as a sport or boxing’s long-term viability in the marketplace. Because the mainstream media’s job is essentially to seek out the simplest narrative in any sequence of events and then exploit it for all it’s worth, it also continually asserts that this fight will settle an “age-old” debate on “MMA vs. Boxing.” For the record, I don’t know anyone besides the fighters themselves, the promoters and a few reporters who actually care about such a debate.

Truth is, this fight is none of the above. This bout is nothing more than two slightly over the hill fighters – one probably a little further down the road to the junk heap than the other – who are fighting each other because they don’t know what else to do with themselves. And possibly because they both need the money. No matter who wins, it won’t prove anything, except that the loser should consider immediate retirement.

It’s also clearly a fight that James Toney has exactly one chance to win: To punch Randy Couture in his face as hard as possible before Couture dumps Toney on his ass. Fortunately for him, Couture has looked increasingly more punchable in each of his last handful of fights. Contrary to what many MMA fans think, it’s not totally impossible that Toney might pull it off. Not totally. But is it likely? Well, no.

As some of you know, in my capacity as MMA Editor at The Rumble I work alongside a number of stellar boxing writers. One of them, Avi Korine, is a self-professed James Toney fanatic. Simply put, he knows more about Toney than anyone else I know. A couple of month ago I asked him to analyze the possibility that Toney is taking the necessary steps to adequately prepare for his Octagon debut. His response was this:

“There is absolutely no chance of that,” Korine wrote. “James is many things, but a careful professional is not one of them. I’ll tell you what James’ plan is going to be. He’s going to get into the ring and spar. That’s all he ever does. James Toney doesn’t like doing road work and he doesn’t like being told what to do. At 20 he was one of the most naturally skilled fighters you will ever see; capable of fighting from the inside or the outside. It was a gift. He still has those skills but you’re not going to teach him new tricks. He might spend a couple of days trying to avoid getting taken down, but that’s about it.”

So all this stuff with King Mo and Lister? That’s window-dressing. Even money say that Toney comes out to the cage wearing a pair of giant, goofy boxing trunks and throws one, maybe two good punches before Couture takes him down. Then we’ll see how much he’s been working on his ground game.

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Almost North- June 12, 2010 at 5:35 pm
Toney via incomprehensibleplata
Griff- June 12, 2010 at 4:53 pm
PLEEEEASE, DON'T HAVE TONEY FIGHT COUTURE! Have him fight MACHIDA. We all know Cap'n America will easily take Toney down and play slap-n-tickle to win a TKO. Toney won't be in the least bit hurt, but he'll lose the fight. Machida is a much better fit. The quintessential martial artist vs. the quintessential boxer. Wrestling coupled with athletic commissioned rules have ruined MMA.
fatbellyfrank- June 12, 2010 at 4:49 pm
Is this a training ground for literary critics or an MMA site? I wonder sometimes
Clyde- June 12, 2010 at 4:35 pm
I think the biggest problem with predicting the fight (as stated, if it does happen) is that we haven't seen Toney do anything. Randy has slowed down and can't take a shot like he used to. And while we all know that Toney will not be the superior grappler when they meet, you do have to wonder how much of his boxing talent is still there.

I'd guess not enough of it but I've been wrong plenty of times before. I'd still like to see some footage of Toney rolling or training his takedown defence. Or catching someone with a Toneyplata. Which is actually a side check kick followed by a right hook.
Viva Hate- June 12, 2010 at 4:29 pm
WOAH there James, Pee Wee Herman got in trouble for a similar indiscretion.

Red Baron- June 12, 2010 at 4:21 pm
"...it also continually asserts that this fight will settle an “age-old” debate on “MMA vs. Boxing.” For the record, I don’t know anyone besides the fighters themselves, the promoters and a few reporters who actually care about such a debate."

Lemme guess, it was Cagepotato's FNG who typed this, right? Please stop this, you're embarassing yourself. In a single sentence you said you know very little about MMA and its fans.

The truth is that most MMA fans love to see boxing vs MMA, primarily because we know MMA is a superior fighting style and we want to see boxing fans forced to admit that.

In fact, mixing the arts is the essense of, and the very definition of MMA.

Get up to speed, man.
Mr_Misanthropy- June 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm
Fuckin' Dundas.

James Toney by full nelson Rd. 1. I just want to see who they get to translate his interview with Joe Rogan. I bet it's Nate Diaz. Maybe they'll let Matt Hamill do the lip reading and then relay it via sign language to his Association of the Deaf (tm) seeing-ear human.
PurplePickle- June 12, 2010 at 4:09 pm
@ Mr Misanthropy

That somebody was me. Skeletor has Elias, but I'm the pioneer in Dundas like/hate. Let me show you how it's done.

Hey Dundas, you doing the liveblog tonight? If so, there is an html format tutorial link at the bottom of this page. Read it, then use it. Got it? Don't fuck this one up like last time, you lazy fucker. Now go out there and liveblog like a goddamn champion. Asshole.
Mr_Misanthropy- June 12, 2010 at 4:08 pm
FFFFFuuuuucccckkkk YYYYoooouuuuu, Dundas.

James Toney's rubber guard is unstoppable.
ghostboner- June 12, 2010 at 4:03 pm
Yeah Dundas! Ok well, maybe not but, uh...... I'll take JT Mumbles by flying scissor sweep into heel hook!
Mr_Misanthropy- June 12, 2010 at 3:44 pm
Fuck you, Dundas!

Not a bad article, well written. I just had to say it because, as somebody pointed out a while back, it does have a nice ring to it.

Fuck you, Dundas!
Jim Harbaugh Scramble- June 12, 2010 at 2:27 pm
Handy has looked so slow lately (he at least looked faster than Coleman), its not going to surprise me if he gets tagged twice and goes to sleep.

Toney can win this, I might be drinking the hypeman Koolaid, but I think Toney is gonna shock the world... either that or get dryhumped into submission.

War CagePotato.
Unwar Kid Nate.
Milklavar- June 12, 2010 at 2:14 pm
A former champ who was involved in one of the biggest fight in UFC history (also gets a PPV cut), Clothingline, endorsement, runs his successful mma gymS and lets not forget the movies he's done - but just because cage potato states couture needs a paycheck it must be true.

Another poor article written.
VegasDirt- June 12, 2010 at 1:59 pm
You guys must be living under a rock or your parent's roof. Everybody needs money right now (or is it just an illusion that our economy has crashed?) more money equals more bills...
Almost North- June 12, 2010 at 1:53 pm
Randy pays roughly the US government deficit every month in alimony payments.
dogpt3- June 12, 2010 at 1:45 pm
In the authors defense, Randy did just get divorced again, you'd think after the 11th time he'd get a prenup. Kim is one crafty little jailbird
PurplePickle- June 12, 2010 at 1:38 pm
Did Avi mention the side check kick as one of Toney's naturally gifted skills?
ramie78- June 12, 2010 at 1:37 pm
Yea, I'm sure that Randy needs the money. How in the hell does anyone let this guy write for this site? I do agree with the fact that Toney won't be trying any thing other then knocking him out but its going to be a long night for him. That Boxing stance is a bulls eye for kicks and a take down will be easier then taking candy from a baby. I just hope that Randy give us something good to watch and drags him around the cage for a few before him submits him.
fightfan- June 12, 2010 at 1:32 pm
We gotta start using some common sense!!! One, there is a more than likely chance that this fight WILL not happen. Every interview, either from Toney's or Couture's mouth, it was NEVER said the fight WAS a DEFINITE go!!. The best answer we get is.."it is looking like it".

MY prediction is that come 1 week or so before the fight Toney will have to have a "Fedor" like "REnegotiation" period even though Toney ALREADY agreed and signed on with the UFC.

I personally think that Toney is using this FREE publicity to try getting the boxing world once again interested in him and BIG MONEY boxing fights. If I had to put a number on it, I would say there is AT LEAST a 50% chance that Toney backs out.

TOney couls STILL box if he DIDNOT fight. All he has to do is say..."I RETIRE FROM MMA" and he owes Dana White nothing.

Then again, Zuffa, Dana, and the Fertittas are some saavy motherfucking businesmen. I can only imagine what transpires if Toney tries screwing with the UFC!!!

The next couple months should be one hell of a soap opera. There is NO WAY this fight goes off without many twists and turns!!!
VegasDirt- June 12, 2010 at 1:27 pm
Toney says to Dean Lister, " look mahan I don't give a f-bomb about this pussy ground shit, just make sure I don't look like Kimbo broke ass." To that Dean replied, "look James, this old man is going to make prison seem like cuddling, why the hell are you doing this anyways?" James grumbles back, "that goddamn Mayweather had to talk shit... And i can't pay my bills"
steampunk22- June 12, 2010 at 1:00 pm
Yup.
hotsaucemonster- June 12, 2010 at 1:00 pm
im sure couture really needs the money after all running one of the most sought after MMA camps, a clothing line as well as tons of endorsements just doesnt pay the bills these days
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