AS more time passes, we are getting to know the extent of Tyson Fury’s interest in mixed martial arts and starting to learn just how serious he is about one day crossing over to MMA from boxing.
What began as a call-out of current UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, and a desire to train with Conor McGregor, has since calmed somewhat. Now what we have is Fury, an interested spectator at UFC 246 in Las Vegas on Saturday, admitting a possible move into MMA is inspired more by the four-ounce gloves used than anything else.
This means Fury wants smaller gloves but no wrestling or grappling. It means he would fight in a cage but not with MMA rules. It means he would like to fight a UFC champion in a one-off fight but not start from the bottom and work his way up. It means he would like any potential switch from boxing to MMA to be on his terms and on one else’s.
“I don’t want to go into an MMA fight rolling around the floor and all that, no,” Fury explained to ESPN. “But I would fight one of their champions in small gloves. Maybe in a cage, but with boxing rules. I think that would be very interesting, with UFC gloves, the little four-ounce gloves, that would be good for me.
“After I beat Deontay Wilder next month I’m going to have a sit-down with Dana (White) and we’re going to go for it, run some numbers and see if the fight makes sense. Whoever’s available from that side, and whoever’s willing to get their ass kicked in the cage by the heavyweight champion of the world, he’s the one I want.”
In order of difficulty, it’s probably as follows: One, Fury vs. a mixed martial artist, any mixed martial artist, under MMA rules. Two, Fury vs. Wilder on February 22 in Las Vegas. Three, Fury vs. a mixed martial artist in a cage, with four-ounce gloves, under boxing rules.
No fool, Fury will be aware of this order and will know, too, that it suits him to keep the cards stacked in his favour.
He’s yet to even win a world title as a cruiserweight but Lawrence Okolie, the current European champion at 200 pounds, is already imagining the day he moves to heavyweight and makes the kind of life-changing money that has often fuelled cruiserweights who have taken the same path.
Okolie, last seen beating Yves Ngabu to become the number one in Europe, is certainly equipped to one day venture north. At six foot five, he is plenty tall enough and, at 27 years of age, will still have some maturing to do, physically, ahead of the move. He also has experience of being in the ring with heavyweights, both as an amateur and in sparring, and says he has never felt out of his depth when opposing naturally larger men.
“I feel comfortable,” he told Sky Sports. “We’d have to see in an actual fight scenario but in sparring, with bigger headguards and bigger gloves, athleticism is a bigger factor because you have to move in and out. One big shot isn’t as big of a factor.
“Obviously I punch reasonably hard and I’m strong, so I never feel out of my depth with heavyweights.
“I’ve sparred top quality heavyweights and medium heavyweights. I feel comfortable. A lot of cruiserweights don’t want to spar me because either we’re going to fight or physically it is too imposing.
“The heavyweights are big, are able to soak up more damage and have pride when sparring me (because I’m in the division below).”
Before moving to heavyweight, Okolie wants to first leave his mark on the cruiserweight division. The Londoner, having won the European title in October, now hopes to meet Poland’s Krzysztof Glowacki for the vacant WBO belt.
Should he win that, he will then look to unify the division. Then, should he achieve that, a trip to the heavyweight division will be both inevitable and lucrative.
“Definitely,” he said. “If I’m able to accomplish what I want to accomplish this year, then maybe early next year I will move up.
“I’d look to potentially unify (the cruiserweight division) in the fight after and solidify myself as a world champion this year.”
If he’s looking for inspiration, he doesn’t have to look far. Oleksandr Usyk, after all, once owned every one of the cruiserweight titles Okolie now looks to chase and collect and, having moved up to heavyweight in October, is on the verge of securing countless money-spinning opportunities.