Mike Tyson: Jon Jones is the “King,” Says MMA Fighters Are “Great Athletes”
By Joshua Molina
Had Mike Tyson, the one-time “Baddest Man on the Planet,” been born 20 years later, he might have become an MMA fighter.
On one condition:
“Cus (D’Amato) would have had to been an MMA guy,” Tyson told Full Contact Fighter. “I could have been a hockey player if Cus was (a hockey coach).”
Instead, Tyson became one of the greatest boxers of all time and now one of MMA’s biggest fans.
“Jon Jones is the king,” Tyson said of the UFC light heavyweight champ. “And I love the Diaz brothers. The Diaz brothers are awesome.”
Tyson on Monday opened up to Full Contact Fighter and members of the sports and entertainment media about his career, his goals, and his plans to take his critically acclaimed one-man show national, after a successful tour on Broadway.
“MIKE TYSON: UNDISPUTED TRUTH,” directed by Spike Lee, will launch in major cities across the country beginning in February.
The show features Tyson talking about everything from his days as the violent, feared heavyweight champ, his arrest and conviction on a rape charge and now his days as a father and family man.
Through the shows, Tyson is also looking to raise awareness for his Mike Tyson Cares foundation, which provides services to children from broken homes.
At 20 years old, Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history when in 1986 he knocked out Trevor Berbick. The next year, he unified the three recognized world championships in boxing at the time, and went on to become a pop culture icon. He KO’d the likes of Michael Spinks, Larry Holmes and Frank Bruno.
Tyson in 1987 was talked about in the same sentence with the likes of Muhammad Ali, as potentially the greatest fighter in history, until he was upset by 42-1 underdog James “Buster” Douglas, in Tokyo, Japan. Although he would bounce back, Tyson never quite regained his luster and spent the next several years self destructing.
Perhaps his worst in-ring crisis came when he bit part of Evander Holyfield’s ear off during a fight, later claiming he was frustrated that Holyfield was illegally elbowing and headbutting him.
Tyson was 27-0, with 26 KO’s when he stepped into the ring for his first title fight, a remarkable feat considering that, in the modern era of MMA, heavyweights such as Can Velasquez got a title shot after eight fights and Brock Lesnar after only three fights.
Tyson stopped short of saying how he would do in an MMA fight, but did heap praise on MMA fighters, calling them “great athletes” who are “a lot better today than they were 20 years ago.”
Tyson said his all-time favorite fighters are pound-for-pound great Fedor Emelianenko and MMA pioneer Royce Gracie. He’s also a fan of Canadian icon Georges St. Pierre.
Tyson scoffed at criticisms of the sport that MMA fighters lack great stand-up boxing abilities. Surprisingly, the man with one punch KO power, said he appreciates the jiu-jitsu and wrestling battles that take place on the mat.
“When they are on the floor wrestling, they have to fight,” Tyson said. “It’s like a boxer trying to escape a clench.”
Tyson was noticeably relaxed during the media call. Gone are the days when he looked to intimidate with his threatening words and aggressive body language. He no longer challenges members of he media to fights, or threaten to eat his opponent’s children, as he did once about Lennox Lewis.
He talks now about appreciating his life, having no regrets, and wanting to help others. His goal is to start a Mike Tyson Cares Foundation in every city.
“I never realized giving would bring so much fulfillment,” Tyson said.
Tyson, during the media call, frequently talked about his trainer and mentor D’Amato, the man credited with turning Tyson from the streets to a career in boxing. He died at 85, before Tyson won the championship.
Tyson said “Cus” still lives inside him in everything he does.
“I wish he saw my kids,” Tyson said.
Tyson added that Cus probably wouldn’t be happy with his acting turn.
“He would want me to be fighting,” said Tyson, who is 46. “He’d say ‘You are still young and you are still healthy.’ ”
Tyson’s fighting days are well behind him. He will, however, be watching this Saturday’s Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez IV fight and said he will “DVR” the Nate Diaz Vs Benson Henderson UFC fight.
Tyson’s in a good place, seemingly having put much of the madness of multiple arrests and personal losses behind him.
“I am very comfortable now,” Tyson said.