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Boxing fans who have never seen mixed martial arts before often come away with the impression that it's just bad boxing after watching their first MMA bout.
Of course, that's far from the truth. MMA fighters have to take different stances in their stand-up than boxers do because they have a lot more to defend against than just punches.
A fighter who takes a boxing stance in an MMA fight is more often than not going to have his front leg kicked out from under him and be taken quickly to the ground.
Ricardo Mayorga – who will instantly become the most high-profile boxer to transition to MMA when he takes on veteran Din Thomas on Saturday in the main event of a Shine Fights pay-per-view card at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, N.C. – insists he's not all that impressed with the skills of MMA fighters.
Mayorga, who held welterweight and super welterweight world titles as a boxer, suggested that MMA fighting is not much different than fighting in the streets. And he said he's not all that concerned about meeting Thomas, an Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran who holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
"I'm going to take that black belt and wipe my feet with it after I knock him out," Mayorga said of Thomas. "The striking in boxing and in MMA are hugely different. MMA is more geared toward a street fight and I've been fighting in the streets of Nicaragua for years."
Whether Mayorga will get the opportunity to face Thomas remains somewhat in doubt, though – in fact, it's in the hands of a Florida judge. Boxing promoter Don King is seeking an injunction to prevent the Mayorga-Thomas fight because he claims he has an exclusive promotional contract with Mayorga.
Mayorga and Shine CEO Devin Price insist the card will go on as scheduled and that King's contract is for promoting boxing only, not MMA, and that Mayorga's contract with Shine is MMA only.
But King said the contract covers all combat sports and is suing to preserve it. He also said Mayorga owes him hundreds of thousands of dollars and is concerned Mayorga will be hurt by Thomas – and thus unable to repay him.
"This fight will cause me irreparable harm if it goes forward," King said. "Mayorga ain't prepared to fight in MMA. This ain't like boxing; it's like a no-holds-barred fight. He could get hit with elbows and knees and he could get kicked. He's not prepared for that punishment. I know he's not even training.
"You can take this kind of punishment if you're conditioned for it, but Mayorga isn't conditioned for it. This fight could ruin him and he's still a promotable guy. I have to sue to protect my investment and the sanctity of my legally binding contract."
Mayorga called King "a jealous man" and said he believes he's free to fight Thomas. He said of King: "I wish him the worst."
In a statement, Price said: "I have faith in the American justice system, and I believe justice will prevail. When one operates within the rules and regulations, one has nothing to worry about. As far as King goes, it is just his usual smoke and mirrors. He shoots his mouth off about an injunction to try and sway the media's perception, and then waits until the last minute to file in hopes of affecting the success of the promotion. I know the difference between MMA and boxing, and so does Don King. The members of the media, and both MMA and boxing fans, can clearly see that Don King is up to his 'trickerations.' "
Mayorga may be in for a surprise if the fight occurs. He described himself as a longtime MMA fan but said he's been training for 2½ months. He is considered a hard puncher in boxing, with 8- and/or 10-ounce gloves, so it figures he'll be an even harder hitter with 4-ounce gloves in MMA.
He can't, however, know too much about ground fighting and defending Thomas' variety of attacks. Mayorga expressed no concern, which more than anything likely shows his ignorance of MMA.
"I've picked it up quickly," Mayorga said of MMA. "I know how to get out of the moves, the jiu-jitsu moves, he might try. I've been practicing my takedown defense."
Thomas isn't looking to prove anything other than that he's better than Mayorga, and doesn't see himself in a position of having to defend MMA's honor.
"When Brock Lesnar came to the UFC, you didn't hear anyone saying it was a jiu-jitsu guy against a pro wrestler; it was an MMA fight," Thomas said. "I don't think of this fight as a boxer against an MMA guy. I look at it like it's me against Mayorga."
King, who has been investigating the possibility of promoting MMA, said he understands the risks and that Mayorga does not. Mayorga could easily have his arm broken by a Thomas arm bar before he even knows what happened.
King said he's been in talks to put Mayorga into a middleweight championship bout in boxing, likely against World Boxing Association champion Felix Sturm.
"I'm a fan of MMA and when I promote it, I'm going to do it in a meaningful way," King said. "Mayorga has pulled out of fights and has been very tough to work with. He pulled out of the [Alfredo] Angulo fight [in 2009] and now HBO doesn't want a thing to do with him.
"Mayorga is a crazy guy. He's liable to stick out his chin to show how tough he is – the Joe Palooka syndrome. I'm concerned that the man is going to get hurt, with the kicks and elbows and knees, slamming his head. He's not training. He was drunk and he called Dana [Jameson, a Don King Productions official] two days ago. This can't be allowed to happen."
Mayorga is going forward and said he hopes to become an MMA champion. He held a boxing title as recently as 2006, when he lost the World Boxing Council super welterweight title to Oscar De La Hoya. He wants to add MMA hardware to his collection.
"I want to make a career out of this and beat someone a lot better than this guy [Thomas], and hopefully get some belts to my name," Mayorga said. "This is only the start."
If Mayorga is taking Thomas as lightly as he seems to be, his MMA debut could wind up being very memorable – and not for the reasons he may think.
- Ricardo Mayorga