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Dean Lister Tapped to Work With James Toney on Jiu-Jitsu

With his mixed martial arts debut about two months away, former multi-division boxing champion James Toney has enlisted ex-UFC star and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Dean Lister to tutor him in a crash course on the ground game, MMA Fighting has learned.

According to two separate sources, Lister has been working with Toney for about one month in preparation for his August UFC 118 bout against UFC legend Randy Couture. Lister did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The addition of Lister to Toney's training team gives a wider look at his preparation, which he has tried his best to keep under wraps while speculation bubbled about whether he was training for the ground game at all. Last week, it was revealed that Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion and former internationally ranked amateur wrestler Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal was tutoring Toney on wrestling. Lister also currently serves as Lawal's BJJ coach, though sources did not say whether that association played a role in introducing Lister into Toney's camp.

While Juanito Ibarra, who trained Quinton "Rampage" Jackson when Jackson captured the UFC light-heavyweight championship, was originally tasked with overseeing Toney's camp, Trever Sherman is now in the role, according to another source. Sherman is a trainer at the M-1 Global USA Training Center in California.

The 41-year-old Toney actively campaigned for a contract from the UFC, following organization President Dana White around the country to several events before a deal was reached in March. His debut in August will make him the most decorated boxer ever to enter the realm of MMA.

Jiu-jitsu, like wrestling is a multi-faceted discipline that for most requires years of study to become proficient, but in the 34-year-old Lister, Toney has a coach with sterling credentials. Lister has an extensive record of excellence in international jiu-jitsu and grappling competition, most notably winning the absolute division of the 2003 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Grappling tournament, which features many of the best submission artists in the world. Lister is a UFC and PRIDE veteran who has compiled an 11-7 career record in MMA. True to form, nine of his wins are by way of submission.

Interestingly, Lister once fought for and taught under the Xtreme Couture banner. Couture faced a similar situation in his last fight, when former Xtreme Couture trainer Shawn Tompkins prepped Mark Coleman to face him at UFC 109. In that fight, Couture, a five-time UFC champ, won via second-round technical submission due to rear naked choke.