ANTHONY JOSHUA has admitted he could one day make the move from boxing to mixed martial arts following last week’s reports in The Telegraph that the IBF and WBA heavyweight titlist is to be courted by UFC supremo, Dana White. But anyone hoping to see Joshua against the likes of UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic any time soon are likely to be disappointed.
Joshua, set for a heavyweight unification showdown in a boxing ring with Joseph Parker this weekend, told reporters he would be keen to test the waters in UFC, but only after his boxing career – still very much in full swing – is over.
The Englishman watched with interest as UFC superstar Conor McGregor made the switch the other way last summer, taking on Floyd Mayweather under Las Vegas boxing rules in a bout that highlighted the difficulties those crossing over will always encounter when taking on masters of their trade. McGregor pluckily lasted until the 10th round, but how much of that had to do with Mayweather allowing him to do so was a point of debate in the aftermath. No matter, though, because both combatants made obscene riches from the spectacle.
“[Floyd] Mayweather opened that door up, do you know what I mean?” Joshua said when asked if a switch to UFC could be on his horizon. “Because he did it, he trialled it, it worked, it did really well [financially], so providing I’ve got to near the end of my career in boxing and I’ve dominated – remember Mayweather did it right at the end of his career, he dominated the sport he loved first. Since the question was asked, I said, ‘Yes, it would be an option because it’s been done before and it’s successful.’ So it can be done again.
“I have to complete the goals and achievements I have in boxing otherwise it’s like a pantomime. You have to dominate your own sport, and then you can look at other avenues.”
But who knows what will await Joshua in the future, but boxing, and achieving all he can in his chosen discipline, remains his priority. Turning his hands to UFC does seem unlikely, it must be said, and Joshua indicated that once his time as a boxer is over, he will stay in the sport in some capacity.
“You have to start a new chapter,” Joshua said about the day he retires from boxing. “But some people can’t can they? I think it’s important for me to be able to start a new chapter. Providing that chapter is still in boxing, I have to remember my glory days are over.
“I think some fighters leave the game and they’re a bit envious, or they didn’t achieve what they set out to. You have to leave the game content, and that’s one of my main goals, to leave the game content, and just accept I had a bit of fun with it, but now I’m on a new chapter. Let’s say there’s another young heavyweight coming up, I shouldn’t look at him and think, ‘I was better than him in my day’. When you’re asking me about them in the future, I want to praise these young kids, rather than be negative. When I’m done, it’s all about being content.”
For now, Joshua is far from content with his accomplishments in the sport because, at the age of 28, he is just getting started.
“It’s still relatively early on in my career, in terms of number of fights. So it’s still new, always something different,” Joshua said. “I’m not at that stage where it’s routine. I can’t really say, ‘I’ve done this a thousand times, I want it like this, this is what works better for me.’ I just come in and embrace it all.”
Much has been made about the unification aspect of his upcoming bout with WBO boss Parker, set for Cardiff this weekend and broadcast live by Sky Sports Box Office in the UK, where the winner will emerge with three of the four major heavyweight titles. But for Joshua, the belts are just a subplot in his overall story.
“It’s about self,” he explained. “I’ve always said it’s not about the belts, even though they are great. Even MIke Tyson said ‘what are these? They don’t mean nothing anymore’. I’m not doing it for the belts. It’s about where can I take myself. Because if it’s for the belts, certain people have won them and then been derailed because they set out to become heavyweight champion of the world, they did it and then there was nothing because that’s all they set out to do.
“I’m challenging myself, the unifications and undisputed are just titles on the shelf. That’s an everlasting battle and bigger than any unification.”