Josh Gross
Friday September 26th, 2008

Saturday marks two weeks since Golden Boy Promotions and Affliction Entertainment announced four cards conjoining boxing and mixed martial arts in 2009. On Friday, both groups will finally sit down to hammer away at the details of their budding relationship.

In bringing together some of the best boxers and mixed martial artists in the world, the promoters hope consumers will view each offering as an event. While hardcore fans of both sports have disparaged the marriage, it's safe to say no one -- not even executives -- can be sure what it will look like.

Taking into account the resources brought forward, there stands the possibility that quality fights could lure a sizeable audience. But what about the fringes, where fans seem set against the arrangement?

This feels like the right time for someone to pull off a night of fights, featuring the best in MMA against the best in boxing. As one long-time boxing scribe told me recently, Golden Boy is in the business of promoting events. The company's CEO, Richard Schaefer, said this much the night the deal with Affliction was announced.

"We want to make sure when we do have our coming-out party, so to speak, all these important details are worked out so our first card will be exciting for boxing fans and for mixed martial arts fans," he said. "First impression is usually the most important impression. We want to be sure when we do that first show that absolutely everything is ready."

Now, I've never wanted to be involved in the fight promotion business. Ever. Too much drama. But indulge me here as I offer my two cents that could compel both boxing and MMA audiences to pony up.

First (and this is more commonsensical than novel): Put together the best possible fights. If this is an opportunity to expand fan bases for boxing and MMA, then bouts must be meaningful and well matched -- not for the person who would watch regardless, but for the viewer who might not otherwise.

Doesn't feel juicy enough, I know. So, here's my pitch: Two, potentially three, fights pitting a high-level boxer against a top mixed martial artist. Both agree to contests in their particular areas of expertise. Boxing tops the first pay-per-view, MMA the next. The most likely scenario would leave both fighters 1-1, demanding a tiebreaker, which would have to come in MMA since it is generally considered the venue where the baddest men and women in the world reside. (Quick: Would you want Anderson Silva to have your back at a bar fight, or Kelly Pavlik?)

Six months to a year later -- leaving plenty of time for promotion -- the trilogy-making bout would offer a chance to prove whether or not a top boxer, having trained on the floor and in multiple disciplines, could win in MMA.

Boxing versus MMA. MMA versus boxing. If Golden Boy is getting a piece of both pies, why wouldn't this make sense?

In effect, Golden Boy is telling the sports world that MMA deserves respect on par with the sweet science. So, regardless of the possible negative results (boxing makes MMA look bad or vice versa) they still could make sense for Oscar De La Hoya's company if the two sports come together.

It's amazing the things people ask sometimes. Last Saturday at Strikeforce's card at the Playboy Mansion, a spectator said he'd heard a rumor in the bathroom: Randy Couture had injured his leg and wouldn't be able to fight Brock Lesnar.

It seemed like one of those things you hear and generally dismiss. But there were a lot of industry insiders at the Mansion that night, and who knows what was going on in the bathrooms? So it was worth looking into.

Turns out, Couture was fine. In fact, he had a tremendous week of training and was taking the weekend off to hunt in the mountains of Colorado, according to his wife, Kim.

But, on Thursday, Kim Couture rang about another crazy rumor that was going around. Someone, doing his best Lorenzo Fertitta impersonation, called the Xtreme Couture gym in Las Vegas. People inside Xtreme Couture scrambled when the fake Fertitta claimed Lesnar was injured, and the Nov. 15 fight was off. The rumor, however, was quickly quashed after confirming Lesnar, all 280 pounds of him, was fine.

Nothin' like a little MMA amusement.

In advance of last weekend's Strikeforce card, I wrote about the changing dynamics of mixed martial arts' growth in the U.S. in comparison to Japan. Perhaps the demise of Japanese MMA has been greatly exaggerated. Or, at least, that's how Strikeforce promoter Scott Coker sees it.

Traveling to Japan this week, Coker planned on negotiating with Fight Entertainment Group officials for the services of Joachim Hansen, Mitsuhiro Ishida and Tatsuya Kawajiri. But it was a meeting with K-1 founder Kazuyoshi Ishii that piqued Coker's interest. The pair worked together when K-1 made semi-annual jaunts to Las Vegas, where Coker worked as the promoter of record.

Perhaps the most important powerbroker in the history of Japanese fight promotion, "Master" Ishii, who was released from prison in August after serving 13 months for tax evasion, appears intent on resurrecting his name and Japanese fight sports at the same time.

Word of Ishii's return should intensify in coming weeks. With Tuesday's Dream 6 delivering a television rating short of expectations, and Sengoku's return this weekend, MMA in Japan could very well benefit from the reappearance of a man Coker dubbed "genius."

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