There is no doubt that Floyd Mayweather could become one of the world's great mixed martial arts fighters.
The world's best boxer was basically bred to fight.
But whether he will become anything more than an expensive publicity stunt in MMA is impossible to answer at this stage.
Mayweather, who said after his Dec. 8 stoppage of Ricky Hatton that he plans to take a long vacation, is now mulling entering MMA. Mayweather hasn't spoken publicly about his intentions, but his best friend, Leonard Ellerbe, insists he's serious.
And Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who developed a friendship with Mayweather when both were contestants on ABC's Dancing with the Stars, said Mayweather's notoriety would be a boon to the sport.
Cuban, who owns a fledgling MMA promotional company, HDNet Fights, is convinced Mayweather's stature in the sports world would extend to MMA.
"Floyd is well known well beyond just boxing fans and I doubt there are many, if any MMA fans (who) don't know who he is," Cuban said in an e-mail interview Saturday with Yahoo! Sports. "So I don't think there is any question that if he dedicated himself to the sport he could quickly become its biggest draw."
MMA has grown dramatically over the last three years, but it still lags behind boxing. The largest paid gate in an MMA fight in North America was $5.39 million for UFC 66, which featured Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.
There have been 31 larger paid gates in Nevada alone, including the last two Mayweather fights.
So as far as MMA has come, it still has a long way to go to gain mainstream acceptance. It may get to that point in the near future, but it's not there yet.
A transcendent star like Mayweather would give it a huge shove in the right direction. "In spite of its growth, MMA is still in its infancy," Cuban said. "The UFC has done a great job of getting it this far. Someone like Floyd could help catapult it to even greater heights by introducing not just boxing fans, but general sports fans to MMA."
If he even fights once, he'll attract a huge audience and perhaps even network television exposure for a sport that was once squeezed off of pay-per-view because of concerns about its brutality.
Mayweather would be taking an extraordinary risk should he attempt to fight, because if he were to get choked out quickly, everything he built in boxing would be gone. He made more than $20 million in each of his last two fights.
To put that amount of money in perspective, consider that just Mayweather's haul from the Hatton fight, which figures to wind up somewhere slightly in excess of $20 million, would be more than every fighter combined on the last three UFC pay-per-view shows.
And if Mayweather were to agree to fight unbeaten WBA welterweight champion Miguel Cotto, the 2007 Yahoo! Sports Fighter of the Year, sometime in 2008, he'd be looking at another $25-million-plus haul.
For him to turn his back on that to enter a sport where he's years behind the curve would require extraordinary courage.
Were Mayweather to have trained in the martial arts for several years, there's no doubt he'd be an elite MMA fighter. He's physically strong, incredibly quick, is a powerful striker and is one of the most well-conditioned athletes alive.
Other boxers have turned to MMA and done well. Marcus Davis, a UFC welterweight, is one of the sport's most successful fighters now. He began as a boxer and was essentially a journeyman, but has become a player in MMA.
It can be done. And have little doubt that with four-ounce gloves on, Mayweather would instantly become the best striker in the game, so long as his fragile hands could handle the shock that would come from landing blows with much less padding on them.
But the question is whether Mayweather will put the time into learning the sport that would be required.
Cuban, for one, believes he would. He wouldn't put a timeframe on how long it would take, but he has little doubt that a motivated Mayweather could learn MMA well enough to be successful.
"Hard to say (how long it would take him)," Cuban said. "He obviously would have to develop additional skills, but there are plenty of accomplished fighters who live off of being great at one particular discipline. Floyd understands he would have a lot to learn, but there is no one that would work harder."
Most likely what is going on is that Mayweather is trying to find his own niche as a promoter. In Cuban, he's befriended a master who has the deep pockets to help him get started.
If Mayweather trained in MMA for a year, he could fight a lower-level opponent to start and be successful. That would be a huge event and could be a vehicle for Mayweather Promotions, his company, to promote MMA cards.
Cuban, who flatly said he could never envision himself promoting a boxing match involving Mayweather, clearly is smitten with the idea.
And it makes sense on a number of levels.
If he wants to prove he can do it and win an MMA fight, he's clearly gifted enough to do so. If he wants to delve into MMA promoting, it's a great launching pad for that bid. But if he plans to try to become the best MMA fighter in the world, that's an entirely different story. At nearly 31 and with a body that he says is beginning to break down from a lifetime of boxing, time is his enemy.
- Floyd Mayweather