The MMA industry would have not been what it is today if not for these athletes and their crossover fights.
On a lengthy Instagram tirade earlier today, Floyd Mayweather Jr. revealed that he isn’t willing to fight Japanese kickboxing prodigy Tenshin Nasukawa. In fact, there wasn’t an agreement in the first place, according to the undefeated boxer.
So here we are, winds taken from our sails, wondering what could have been. (You didn’t book a December flight to Japan, did you?)
But if you’re really craving for some mind-blowing, awe-inspiring, or just downright strange crossover action, we at MBody have got you covered. Let’s take a look at the five most remarkable crossover fights in history.
Randy Couture vs. James Toney
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Hall-of-Famer Randy Couture vs. multi-division boxing champion James Toney at UFC 118 was one of the earliest big-stage matches that sparked the MMA vs. boxing debates. Eight years later, this fight still holds up as the best piece of evidence for MMA stans who argue that boxers don’t stand a chance against cage fighters in a real-life conflict.
Toney promised a knockout but Couture didn’t allow him to land anything at all. The former UFC heavyweight wasted no time taking Toney to the ground to neutralize the boxer’s edge in striking. Couture slapped on an arm triangle choke to force Toney to tapout at 3:19 of the first round.
CM Punk vs. Mickey Gall
Pro wrestling sensation CM Punk called himself “the best in the world” and after holding the WWE Championship for a record-breaking 434 days, the Chicago native was on his way to be proven right. However, Punk left the WWE in 2014 after losing his passion for pro wrestling. His quest to prove his greatness did not stop, though, as he opted to join the UFC to test his abilities in a legitimate prize fight.
Enter up-and-comer Mickey Gall who was hungry for a big money fight.
As expected, the 38-year-old newbie was manhandled by then-24-year-old Gall at UFC 203. Punk generated zero offense as he was demolished and choked out at the 2:14 mark of the opening round. Punk tried again two years later against Mike Jackson at UFC 225. But again, Punk’s deficiencies were exposed as he dropped a unanimous decision in a one-sided fight.
Butterbean vs. Bart Gunn
Let’s get this out of the way: Pro wrestling is a physically demanding sport but it is also predetermined. However in 1998, WWE decided to stage a legitimate martial arts contest called “Brawl For All” to determine who the toughest man in the roster is. The company expected “Dr. Death” Steve Williams to win the whole thing but mid-carder Bart Gunn had other things in mind. Gunn emerged victorious after steamrolling Bob Holly, Williams, “The Godfather”, and finally “Bradshaw” (John Layfield) in the finals.
His reward? A boxing match with Eric “Butterbean” Esch at WrestleMania XV.
Understandably, Gunn didn’t stand a chance against the six-foot, 425-pound knockout machine. “Butterbean” put the wrestler to sleep in just 35 seconds with a roaring right haymaker. Gunn had never recovered from setback and slowly faded to irrelevancy.
Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor
We can’t have a conversation about crossover fights without mentioning the biggest one yet. Billed as the “The Money Fight,” Mayweather, arguably the greatest boxer in his generation, locked horns with UFC posterboy Conor McGregor in August 2017.
MayMac recorded the second highest pay-per-view buy rate in boxing history. Its international press tour featured a ridiculous game of one-upmanship between the two icons, which was as entertaining as the fight itself.
While most expected Mayweather to obliterate the Irishman, McGregor shocked the world by hanging – and even winning some rounds – against “The Best Ever.” McGregor eventually ran out of fuel in round 10 as Mayweather teed off on him for the technical knockout (TKO) stoppage.
Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki
This is the grand daddy of them all. In 1976, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali clashed with Japanese pro wrestler Antonio Inoki, who was an equally mythical figure in Japan.
“The Bout of the Century” was watched by an estimated 1.4 billion people worldwide. However, the “mixed rules” fight miserably failed to live up to its billing with critics pointing to the lackluster exhibition as Ali’s lowest point. The Japan Times best summarized the event: “The 15-round contest was pretty much a bore from start to finish. Ending in a draw, it proved once again that when an apple fights an orange, the results can only be a fruit salad.”
While this crossover fight isn’t very re-watchable for its poor in-ring quality, it is still a significant landmark event for combat sports. Ali vs. Inoki is regarded as a pivotal moment that led to the birth of modern MMA.
Featured image from Agence France-Presse (AFP).
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