Ronda Rousey (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)The Antiquated Rivalry: Less Bashing, More Respect Needed Between MMA and Boxing Brian McKenna March 14, 2014 Spotlight Last weekend was a big one for the world of combat sports. Last Friday night, Bellator held a night of fights that featured the first round of its season-10 heavyweight tournament on a card headlined by the bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas, who successfully defended his title with a slick rear-naked choke. The following day, there was triple-barrel action. Glory Kickboxing held a card in Croatia headlined by MMA legend Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. The Octagon was assembled in London and featured Alexander Gustafsson in his first fight since nearly taking down champion Jon Jones in September. Later that night, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez squared off with Alfredo Angulo in a boxing match for the ages. Three sports were showcased on three different continents, and combat sports fans were overwhelmed by the number of punches that were thrown. But one piece of big fight news from the busy weekend emerged not as the result of any of the punches thrown, but rather of some words that were hurled. On Monday, it was revealed that retired boxer Ann Wolfe, while in attendance at the festivities for the Alvarez vs. Angulo boxing match, had some choice words for UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. Wolfe said she would not only beat Rousey in a fight, but she would crush her. When “Brown Sugar” was asked to clarify as to whether or not it would be a fight contested under boxing or MMA rules, she replied, “We can meet in the streets.” For what it’s worth, Wolfe was a highly accomplished boxer with a professional record of 26-1, and she simultaneously held four championship titles during her reign in boxing. If the two locked horns in a boxing match, it would be a near certainty that Wolfe would win the fight. She has the experience and credentials inside the squared circle that would clearly give her an edge in the sweet science over the predominantly judo style of fighting that Rousey brings to the table. However, as good as all of those boxing credentials are, they hold almost zero weight in a mixed martial arts contest. Boxing, judo, kickboxing, freestyle wrestling, karate, taekwondo, Greco-Roman wrestling, Muay Thai, sambo and more are all wrapped into one in Rousey’s current sport. Entering an MMA fight after only training in one of the aforementioned disciplines in the year 2014 would spell disaster, regardless of which one it is. Let’s rewind to 1993, when boxer Art Jimmerson, in possession of a boxing record of 29-5, entered the Octagon against Royce Gracie. Shortly after the bout reached the two minute mark, Jimmerson, wearing just one boxing glove in fear that two gloves would leave him helpless to defend against Gracie’s ground skills, tapped out and accepted his defeat after the ground specialist had merely achieved mount position. Fast forward to 2010, when boxer James Toney, who held a boxing record of 73-6-3 and multiple boxing championships, dipped his toes into MMA and took on Randy Couture. Similar to Gracie in the bout at UFC 1, Couture easily secured the takedown against his boxer opponent. Couture needed less than four minutes to secure the fight-winning arm-triangle choke. Those examples cast doubt over Wolfe’s claim that she could take Rousey in any form of fighting, even mixed martial arts. The reality is that boxing and MMA are two different sports that require different skill sets. Mixed martial artists utilize boxing as part of their repertoire, but that doesn’t make them boxers. The same is true in reverse—skilled boxers, even at the highest level, are not mixed martial artists. However, that does not mean that all boxers are unsuccessful while competing in the sport of MMA. Decorated boxer Holly Holm has successfully crossed over from boxing to MMA. She is off to an undefeated start over the course of six fights, and she has popped up in the discussion of possible legitimate threats to Rousey’s current title reign. She trains at Jackson’s MMA, an elite camp, and has a kickboxing background to complement her pure boxing skills. Holm embraces MMA as its own sport, and that realization has contributed to her success. Unlike Wolfe, boxer Roy Jones Jr. has given MMA the respect that it deserves. There needs to be more of that mutual respect between the two sports. These are two different sports that are capable of coexisting successfully. Expecting someone to be dominant in both sports would be like expecting a soccer player to instantaneously be successful as a football kicker, despite the night and day difference between the two sports. One of the best parts about combat sports is that, more often than not, the fighters have a chip on their shoulder. It’s what keeps them motivated to train harder than for their previous fight, and it’s what gets them to push their limits. Unfortunately, this chip on the shoulder seemingly creates a rift between the two sports. Boxing was the king of combat sports until MMA started overtaking the throne. Boxers like Wolfe, and Tyson Fury before her, want their sport to reign supreme again. Rather than taking the high road and accepting MMA, though, they find a way to bash it. The sooner the respect between the two sports grows, the sooner we can stop having this conversation. There is plenty of room for both sports in this world that we live in. Sure, most people who are reading this article are likely to favor MMA, but that is because this is an MMA website. However, it is still possible for MMA fans to enjoy a great display of boxing like the one that took place last weekend between Alvarez and Angulo, or take joy while tuning into a Glory kickboxing event. Sure, we knew ahead of time that we wouldn’t see any takedowns or armbars, but by no means did that diminish the product. We appreciate and respect it for what it is, and boxing fans should do likewise when it comes to MMA.