The UFC 118 bout between James Toney, and Randy Couture has been bringing up a lot of Boxing vs MMA debates. Some say it would finally prove that mixed martial artists are far superior than one-dimensional boxers, while others worry that it could be a huge risk to MMA's credibility if a 5-time champ and a UFC Hall-of-Famer lost to a pro-boxer without MMA experience.
Couture was asked by MMA Mania's Jesse Holland about this, and he tells fans to hold-your-horses because MMA will be fine regardless of who wins on this matchup:
There's no risk. I don't understand why people keep saying that. How is it a risk? This is a fight that garners a whole bunch of eyes from the boxing world as well as other areas and can bring new fans over to MMA.
James Toney poses all kinds of problems. There's a lot of unknowns coming into this fight, not just for him, but for me as well. Look at what he's accomplished in the sport of boxing, some of the names he's beaten. He's a dangerous opponent and I think an interesting opponent. The bottom line is there's a lot more going on in this sport than whether I win or lose.
Our own Luke Thomas also talked about this back in April when the match up was first announced:
The reality is Toney isn't even accepted by the boxing community anymore, insofar as he's regarded as a serious competitor or threat. This isn't Vic Darchinyan or Kermit Cintron, two fighters still in or close to their prime, throwing their hat into the ring. This is James Toney, a boxer long past athletic glory who is having difficulty securing a lucrative bout in the sport where he's spent his adulthood. For boxing's more elite flotsam and jetsam to demolish a MMA hero would be unequivocally devastating.
But devastation isn't the same as the outright elimination of legitimacy. In fact, if either fighter wins in devastating fashion, the pseudo/not-so-pseudo rivalry of boxing and MMA is likely to heat up making further MMA fighter vs. Boxer bouts all but certain. Boxing is more likely to pass on Toney if he's destroyed, but any potential annihilation could compel other prominent boxers to take up arms. More likely, however, is the possibility that the army of MMA fighters ready to battle for their sport's honor when one of the most revered figures is humiliated will step forth.
Even if Couture loses, time doesn't stop. Other fighters will challenge other boxers. In fact, UFC President Dana White will likely find enough opposition for Toney to all but guarantee he takes a beating.
MMA's legitimacy will certainly be tarnished by a Couture loss to Toney. That much is indisputable. But there's too much ego and too much money to be made by having that event be some sort of stand alone determinant. There are many iterations of this rivalry and Couture vs. Toney is hardly the one to be the most concerned about. Wait until a real boxer in his prime with enough MMA skills to succeed gets into the game. When he's knocking off contenders, that's when you hit the panic button.
I'm with Randy in saying that MMA isn't at risk. Boxing, like wrestling and jiujitsu, is one of the key components of mixed martial arts. A jiujitsu world champ coming in to MMA won't tarnish the sport's credibility. A kickboxing world champ won't damage MMA's credebility, and the same goes for a world champion boxer. James Toney will bring in new eyeballs to the sport, which already makes it a win for the UFC. A Couture victory would naturally be better for UFC/MMA, but a loss will do nothing, except give a few boxing fans and media types extra ammo to talk trash to their MMA counterparts... but will that matter in the grand scheme of things? Nope.
BE Reader mmalogic said it best:
If purists are worried about a boxer coming in and beating an MMA fighter of which said boxer will be a heavy underdog – then they need to find another sport.
If he wins he should be applauded. The sport needs to be able to stand on its own otherwise what are you trying to protect? an illusion?
This sport is about finding the best fighters in the world… so lets find out. Lets put them in the octagon so we can find out. That’s what the sport is about. Placing a master boxer in the cage so we can see what he can do in an actual fight… that’s it. This is why the UFC will grow no matter what happens.