James ‘Lights Out’ Toney didn’t
show up for the post-fight press conference on Saturday night. That wasn’t much
different from what happened during his UFC debut.
That debut was also his finale in
the world of mixed martial arts, a career that lasted 3 minutes and 18 seconds,
but really lasted about 20 seconds. That’s about how long it took five-time UFC
champion Randy Couture to dive at him and grab his ankle, sending him spinning
to the floor.
From there it was just a matter of
how long it would take Couture to submit him. Eventually he did it with an arm
triangle that choked him out, convincing him to do something he would never
have done in a boxing ring. He quit.
In UFC they don’t call it quitting.
They call it tapping out and it is universally accepted as the right choice to
make when you are in trouble. Toney at least mastered that portion of mixed
martial arts. As it turned out, that was all he really needed to know.
“I didn’t feel like he demonstrated
really any solid skills once he hit his butt,” Couture said of Toney. “He had
no idea. I could hear his corner telling him what to do but I think he was more
intent on trying to punch me in the head.”
That was Toney’s lone chance to win
his first and last UFC fight. If he could catch Couture coming in with a right
hand who knew what might follow? But Couture knew that as well and so worked
for the past several months on diving in at Toney’s ankles in a way, frankly,
he never would have against a more experienced mixed martial artist.
“A good grappler or wrestler is
going to step out of that,” Couture admitted. “That’s why you don’t see a lot
of that in MMA.” You didn‘t see a lot of Toney in MMA either after the fight
was over. He was a no-show at the press conference and a “barely-show” at the
fight, a fact that led UFC president Dana White to point out, “James is pissed
off but he’s been pissed off for eight months now.”
While Toney may have been angry
over what happened to him in the Octagon, most UFC devotees were hardly surprised.
The idea that someone could come into their sport and master it in a matter of
months was, they said, laughable and they were right. In the end the joke was
on James Toney.
To his credit, Couture did not look
upon his victory as proof that a mixed martial artist could defeat a boxer.
What it proved was that because you were once dominant in one sport, as Toney,
42, had been for most of his career in boxing, it does not mean you can step
into another man’s arena and win a fight.
Sitting at ringside was Toney’s
long-time boxing promoter, Dan Goossen, who was here two years ago to promote
the Cayman Open. Last week Goossen issued a challenge to Couture that if he won
last night at the Garden he should then come forward and step into Toney’s
arena and box him. Asked about that after the fight, Couture showed the
difference between a college education and a graduate degree from the School of
Hard Knocks, which is where Toney was educated.
“I would respectfully decline such
an offer,” the 47-year-old Oklahoma State graduate said. “It would be about as
silly as James coming in here. If I did it, I think it would go pretty much the
same way. I’d probably get knocked out in the first round. It’s crazy to think
because you’re a world champion you can just come and cross over into another
That’s not going to happen because
Couture doesn’t need a payday in the way Toney needed one and he more easily
accepts the fact that crossing over from one form of combat sport to another is
an endeavour only for the desperate or the delusional.
Perhaps Toney was both or perhaps
he simply needed the money, a circumstance that can make you do a lot of
hopeless things. Whatever his motivation, it wasn’t enough for him to get into
top flight condition nor did it allow him to keep his feet once Couture dove at
The move that brought him low was
one Couture said he had worked on for several months but began to doubt as the
fight approached until he walked into the ring and saw Toney wearing some unusual
black footwear. A smile spread across his face as he stood in his corner
awaiting the first bell and he later said: “That was probably when I noticed
those slippers or whatever the hell they were he was wearing. It was something
I could grip other than his sweaty foot.”
The second Couture had that foot in
hand, not only was Toney going down with no way of getting up, but White’s
stomach was settling down after a difficult few hours. “As we got closer my
stomach hurt,” White said. “What was I nervous about? I’d have to deal with
James Toney for the next year (if he upset Couture). He’s really a nutty guy.”
So nutty Toney thought he could
beat a world champion mixed martial artist at his own game. Turned out, he
didn’t have a leg to stand on.