Opponent Level Will Factor Into Sanctioning for James Toney's Debut

When James Toney will make his UFC debut remains to be seen, but the multi-time boxing champion already has plenty of fighters interested in facing him, from former UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture to relative newcomer Kimbo Slice.

Because of his pro boxing background, Toney will present a fascinating test case when the UFC matches him up and a state athletic commission goes through the process of approving an opponent. MMA Fighting spoke to one of the men who could be faced with the task, Nevada state athletic commission executive director Keith Kizer, on what potential roadblocks the UFC could expect to face in setting up a potential bout.

Like any MMA newcomer, Toney will have to go through the process of applying for an MMA fighter's license. Assuming his license is approved -- which Kizer added, is no given for someone who's failed two steroids test in recent years -- the next step will come when the UFC submits a potential opponent to the commission for approval.

While Kizer wouldn't address specific possibilities like Couture or Slice, he said the commission would take into account Toney's boxing skills and lack of experience in MMA in determining if a proposed matchup is worthy of sanctioning.

"Generally speaking, you look at the matchup, compare the two fighters and try to make sure it's a non-mismatch," he said. "There's almost always a favorite, someone favored to win the fight. It's not easy to get a 50/50 fight. But the question is how far apart are the proverbial odds? If it's too great a distance, it's a no."

Kizer said that it would be possible that the commission could attend a Toney training session to see what type of MMA skills he possesses in addition to boxing in order to determine his true level of competitiveness. In addition, he said the commission is open to hearing all the pertinent information the promotion and Toney's camp can provide about him.

He cited as an example a Feb. 2007 bout proposed by PRIDE, pitting longtime veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira against relative newcomer Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. At the time, Nogueira was an overwhelming favorite, and upon first inspection, it didn't seem like an acceptable match.

Kizer then spoke to Sokoudjou's coaching staff at Team Quest, who filled him in on Sokoudjou's training and extensive judo background. After confirming the facts, Kizer approved the bout, and Sokoudjou went on to pull off one of the biggest upsets in MMA history.

That said, Kizer admitted it was likely that the commission would more readily approve a Toney matchup with a lesser experienced opponent than one with years of experience.

"I don't want to pre-judge anything, but that's probably a fair statement," he said. "But talking about specific fighters, that's unfair for me to discuss. We'll let the fans speculate. If they come across my desk with a request for a fight, I'll take a look at it, but I don't want to pre-judge anything."

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