'The Baddest man on the planet"
In boxng their are no two names more popular in the legacy then Muhhamed Ali and Mike Tyson. Both world champions, accomplished fighters, colorful characters and renegades in their own regard.
The more brash and criminally controversial one being Mike Tyson himself. At times Tyson was the most feared headhunter in boxing and at others he was the most despised man. He went from being the greatest American heavyweight of his time to someone collecting cheques (and ears).
The 'lande of the rising sun' had a love affair with bigger then life characters evident by the fandom for the likes of Bob Sapp. Ironically, Bob Sapp and Mike Tyson had a fued that once spilled into a K-1 ring.
Another Japanese fight promotion, PRIDE FC was looking to bank on the dwindled down star of Mike Tyson. In 2006 that dream almost came true with a Mike Tyson 'world tour'
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In Japan, the fans love what we in North America call a 'freak show'. Now the Ultimate Fighting Championship hasn't really held freak shows since the earlier portion of it's existence when SEG ran the company from 1993-2001.
The modern day freak show for the ZUFFA-led UFC was at UFC 118 when UFC legend Randy Couture faced former boxing world champion James Toney. As you and i saw, boxers without proper dedication to mixed martial arts training will not succeed. In hindsight, it was brilliant booking because the result led to adding to Couture's legacy and was a poke to the chest of boxing for the UFC. The fight was also counterproductive because nobody doubted that Couture wouldn't simply take down Toney. All in all it was quite disappointing because it would've been nice to see Randy stand and bang with a boxer for a little bit.
We have seen successful transitions from boxers to mixed martial artists but we haven't really seen mixed martial artists transition to boxing. UFC fighters Nick Diaz and Quinton Jackson have expressed a deep interest in testing their mettle in the squared circle. Diaz even went as far as calling out known fighter Fernando Vargas out for a tilt.
K-1 superstar Badr Hari has just left the K-1 world to pursue a career in boxing. Even Kimbo Slice has left mixed martial arts to throw his 'street certified'' dun-dada's in boxing-he has back to back knockouts of no-names so far.
PRIDE FC's parent company Dream Stage Entertainment (DSE) was looking to make an absolute splash with a huge new signee-Mike Tyson.
In 2006, the framework of a plan to establish Mike Tyson as a new star attraction came into focus. The brainchild behind such a crazy idea for the time was DSE president and CEO Noboyuki Sakakibara.
As deep as the talent pool was for PRIDE it lacked that international star who could transition PRIDE from Japan to the rest of the world. PRIDE was essentially regional based in that it never traveled it's circus to other parts of the world while DSE had full control until PRIDE 32 and 33.
DSE envisioned that Mike Tyson's 'bad boy' image that the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) famously capitalized on in 1998 for Wrestlemania 14 would do the same for itself.
Thus the plan in place, Mike Tyson World Tour'.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) and Japan both barred Tyson from competing in their areas due to his legal issues. Due to these legal formalities Sakakibara had to be creative in how he planned this event. The plan was set to host the first event in China on New Years Eve.
The plan in the grand scheme was to out do the New Year's Eve show held at the Santama Arena. The problem?-Mike Tyson was not a mixed martial artist and he was a fledgling boxer at best.
Either Sakakibara didn't care about the well-being of his fighters because he agreed that Tyson should only do boxing rule fights. Essentially taking an MMA fighter who in most cases had little to no training in the sweet science and pit him against Mike Tyson.
Clearly Tyson was as committed to boxing and training as he was prior to his first jail term but the man was still a guy with knockout power. Now Tyson didn't have to train to compete with a pure boxer, he just had to train enough to be in shape with a fighter who no way had his capabilities in slugging fists.
Here's where it gets drool-worthy.
DSE had to really think who they thought would atleast sell the fight with legitimacy and who could become ahuge star as a result of a win. With fighters like Wanderlei Silva, Quinton Jackson and Dan Henderson who are known for their fists they one upped it.
Enter Fedor Emeilanenko and Mirko Cro Cop (yes you read that right)
Mirko Cro Cop, a K-1 level striker who had shown an adept level of hands and feet. You know those highlight reels that we all watched prior to UFC 67 when debuted. Cro Cop has the most legendary head kick in the business and you hear people begging for it this day. He has also has devastating fists that have bludgeoned men like Josh Barnett and Bob Sapp.
Fedor Emelianenko, a looping hook thrower who was able to crack better strikers due to his speed. Fedor had no traditional training in striking like much of his peers in MMA but being a natural, he was able to quickly use fists as much as his grappling.
Here's the difference though, neither Fedor or Cro Cop could use their kicks of their grappling. Neither could use 4 oz gloves so their hands would have to be held different. Their entire defensive gamplan would change as they would have to be lined up in front of Tyson. Also Fedor had a tendacy to keep his hands low and that looseness he felt would have to change because Tyson would eat him up for doing so.
Here's where the hot story goes oddly cold.
In 2006 PRIDE FC held a presser in Las Vegas and Mike Tyson (unlike Nick Diaz) showed up and seemed enthused to be part of the show. In April of 2006 Sakakibara and Tyson actually had met in person to discuss a number of items relating to the 'world tour'.
For no apparent reason the entire world tour and relationship with Tyson fizzled actually was gone. No sign of a reason or rhyme was heard as to why DSE and Tyson didn't work anything out. DSE did in fact offer Tyson an official contract but like many of Tyson's contracts he negated.
Tyson had incurred a lot of debt based on 'breach of contract' that a few hundred thousand dollars extra wouldn't even bother the once feared slugger.
Don't think Tyson had anything bad to say about MMA as he actually speaks very highly of it. He was even seen wearing a Vitor Belfort shirt once in support of the Brazilian bomber. Here's what Tyson had to say on the Toney-Couture fight from last year :
"You have to admit, Toney looked horrible," Tyson said. "He looked slow. He didn’t look like a seasoned, conditioned athlete. You only had to look at his body structure. No way, Toney didn’t get ready to fight a real, professional athlete like Randy is. It was ridiculous. He had no respect for Randy."
In another Tyson-ism here's what he says on the possible success of a boxer in MMA:
"I know 100 percent that a boxer (could win)," Tyson said. "As long as he learns how to grapple and wrestle, he could do great. You’ve got to go in there respecting the sport, and not just thinking you’re going to knock somebody out every time. It’s a complicated sport, but a good boxer has to be a great athlete anyway."
Wouldn't that essentially be a mixed marial artists not a boxer, Mike?