Since MMA’s explosion onto the mainstream, the debate has continued over how a boxer would do in an MMA fight. The answer has been sought by promoters, even the UFC, as they signed former IBF Super Middleweight Champion James ‘Lights Out’ Toney for a match. Ray Mercer, a former WBO Heavyweight titlist, famously KO’d Tim Sylvia. Both Toney and Mercer were out of shape and in their 40′s however. Matt Hume, the famous MMA trainer out of Seattle, recalls an amateur match in the early 90′s under the UFCF group flag featuring Shane Mosley. But there has not been a top notch boxer in their prime to crossover and fight MMA, but that might be about to change.
Former WBC Welterweight Champion Andre Berto (28-2 record, 29 years old) reportedly talked with UFC President Dana White about potentially competing in the UFC. Perhaps it was just a passing conversation, perhaps there is more to it, but the possibility of him competing in the UFC is intriguing, and much more appealing that a flabby James Toney.
Andre Berto is in his prime at 29, and as a boxing welterweight (147 lbs) he would likely compete at 145 lbs in the UFC. His brother has competed in MMA extensively, and his father is an MMA pioneer, fighting in the mid 90′s and later emerging as a respected judge in Japan’s now defunct PRIDE FC event.
When James Toney fought, his KO power was to be feared, but you got the sense that most of Toney’s talk was bluster, and that he was not fully prepared for an MMA fight. Randy Couture ended Toney’s night quickly, and he never did MMA again so it is probably safe to say Toney didn’t know what he was doing.
Berto would likely be far better prepared. He would have the best hands in the weight class walking in the door. Athletically, he is stocky, which could lend itself to takedown defense with a little practice. Wrestling? Berto has another brother who was a collegiate wrestler as well, so he has access to the concepts, unlike Toney.
Berto is not a massive draw on boxing’s scene, though he is one of the sport’s more talented competitors. Since failing to recapture the belt, people are not dying to fight Berto in boxing. If a financial deal can be reached, Berto against most of the mid level UFC fighters in the 145 lb weight class makes for an intersting fight. Berto versus Frankie Edgar? Edgar’s MMA dirty boxing versus a polished pure boxer? Both in their primes, not a gimmicky fight of guys ready for a midlife crisis. Dana, let’s make this happen.