The latest chapter in the boxing vs. mixed martial arts (MMA) rivalry goes down this weekend, and there's a good chance you didn't even know about it.
This Friday (May 3, 2013), Nicaragua-based MMA promotion Omega MMA will host its eighth event, titled "Battle of the Americas," which will be by far the biggest yet, as professional boxer Ricardo Mayorga makes his MMA debut in the main event.
Mayorga makes the transition to MMA for the first time when he takes on unheralded transplanted Canadian Wesley Tiffer in a five-round bout scheduled to take place in the lightweight division from Pharaohs Casino in Managua, Nicaragua.
Tiffer (5-1) has been in the MMA game for nearly a decade, but has not competed professionally since 2009 due to the fact he started up his own fight team, Wesley MMA Team. Tiffer believed his fighting days were over, but when the match up with Mayorga was presented, the 39-year-old couldn't pass up the opportunity.
"I didn't think I was going to keep fighting anymore," Tiffer told MMAmania.com in an exclusive interview. "This opportunity came up because they asked another guy to fight him and the guy didn't want too. I think it was a wrestler -- they asked if he would fight Mayorga and he said no. Then the promoter asked me and I said I could."
Tiffer, the head coach of Wesley MMA Team, has been working on developing talent in Nicaragua for the past few years. And while it may not seem like a very meaningful fight from a broad perspective, for a country like Nicaragua where MMA is booming, the match up is exactly the type of attraction that can bring the sport to the next level.
"This fight is going to put MMA in Nicaragua on a whole different level," Tiffer explained. "It's a huge deal, everyone in the country already knows about the fight. They're doing the professional baseball games that they broadcast on radio and TV, and people are calling during the baseball game asking about the fight -- and baseball is the No. 1 sport in the country. It's a huge deal."
Nicaragua is one of the few countries in Central America with an athletic commission, and that commission will oversee the eight-bout card with the Unified Rules of MMA in place.
The bout will mark Mayorga's second attempt at dipping his toe into the MMA pool. Back in 2010 he was scheduled to fight Din Thomas under the Shine Fights banner in the United States; however, boxing promoter Don King filed an injunction that prevented the bout -- and ultimately the entire fight card -- from taking place.
Mayorga may be past his physical prime at the tender age of 40, but he is a superstar to the people in Nicaragua and there is a large amount of interest surrounding the fight -- so much so that an unknown like Tiffer is feeling the ripple effects of having a high-profile opponent.
"I got out of one of the major TV networks and I was on one of their sports segments, I got out and there was about 50 people waiting to see who I was and to take pictures," Tiffer recalled. "They're not there because of me. They're there because I'm the guy who is fighting Mayorga. I happen to be that guy and that's the case. If you were to put me and someone else, we're not going to pack a soccer stadium. Mayorga does."
Mayorga boasted a 29-8-1 record with 23 knockouts over the course of his 11-year boxing career. However, he hasn't fought professionally in more than two years since suffering a defeat to Miguel Cotto in March 2011.
Despite having shared the ring with the likes of Cotto, Shane Mosley, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Fernando Vargas, among others, over the course of his career, Mayorga may be best known for his brash personality outside of competition, and that hasn't changed for his move to MMA.
"He told me I was going to be his punching bag," Tiffer said. "That I was a nobody. He says he's going to knock me out in 60 seconds and he's betting his entire purse against me, that he's going to knock me out in 60 seconds. Then he told the promoter to have another fighter ready after one minute so when he's done with me he can bring another guy in and have two fights in one night."
"He goes, ‘When he comes to the cage make sure you have a chain to his foot so he doesn't run away and jump the fence.' Nothing got to me, though. Words are words and I don't let them bother me."
While Tiffer is not particularly fond of Mayorga for all his talk, he is not worried about words and is more curious about what kind of skills -- aside from boxing -- "El Matador" plans to bring to the cage
"It's one of the few times where a boxer is going to fight an MMA guy," explained Tiffer. " An elite boxer. As a person I don't think much of him. I think he's a bum. He smokes and does a whole bunch of stuff. As an athlete, I don't have a lot of respect for him. As a boxer, I have to respect him. I have to recognize he stepped in the ring with world-class champions in boxing. But other than that, I have to see him as another fighter."
"I look at his weaknesses and the only strength he's got is boxing. He's training jiu-jitsu, I don't know where, but honestly no matter how much jiu-jitsu or wrestling he trains, he's never going to learn what I've been doing for 10 years now."
According to recent comments by Mayorga made to La Prensa, he is only four pounds above the contracted 160-pound weight required for the bout. While Tiffer is unsure how serious Mayorga took his MMA training in preparation for the fight, he hopes the low weight is an indication he took the fight earnestly.
"I like to think that he's taking it seriously, because I have to. I assume that the one that shows up is going to be the best Mayorga there's ever been," he said. "I'm going to assume that he knows how to defend takedowns and knows how to defend kicks and knows how to defend an armbar and a guillotine."
"If I was Mayorga and I knew that my boxing career is pretty much done and I was knocked out in my last four fights, I would use this opportunity. If I was him it would be in my best interest to get ready."
The most glaring example of a high-profile boxer coming into MMA was under the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) banner in 2010 when James Toney took in Randy Couture at UFC 118.
It was a short and sweet fight, as "The Natural" took Toney to the ground, established a dominant position and quickly secured an arm-triangle choke for the submission victory.
Couture represented the diversity of the sport that night, proving a boxer can't just walk into an MMA bout against a well-prepared fighter and win handily. When Tiffer climbs into the cage with Mayorga, he plans on sending a similar message; however, he would like to make Mayorga pay for his words and prolong the beating as much as possible.
"They asked me in an interview if I'm going to exchange punches and I said, ‘Well, no. I'm not.' He came into my sport, he came into my world. I didn't go into a boxing ring and say, ‘Let's wrestle.' He came in here so I'm going to show him what it's all about."
"There's a part of me that just wants to beat the [expletive] out of him. By taking his legs out and taking him down and just punishing him, it's something I'll take joy in and then submitting him. I'll get more joy out of beating the [expletive] out of him for two or three rounds and then submitting him."
The entire Omega MMA: "Battle of the Americas" fight card featuring the Tiffer vs. Mayorga main event can be purchased online for just $9.99 right here.
(For more information on Wesley MMA Team, check out their Facebook page here.)