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Rapper Fat Joe: MMA fighters 'are pound-for-pound the toughest athletes in the world'

Rob Kim/Getty Images

Fat Joe is a boxing guy going way back. He and Big Pun were two of the first rappers to ever walk a boxer out to the ring when they did it for Felix Trinidad before his bout with Oscar De La Hoya in 1999.

But the Bronx born hip-hop artist has a lot of love for MMA, too. He'll be performing at the House of Fame Mixed Martial Arts event in Coral Gables, Fla., on Friday night. The card is being billed USA vs. Cuba and will feature American athletes pitted against Cubans.

"These guys are pound-for-pound the toughest athletes in the world," Fat Joe told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "And there's no way around it."

Joe, whose real name is Joseph Cartagena, said he is not the biggest fan of MMA, but when there's an important fight he always makes sure he sets time aside in his busy schedule to watch it.

"I buy into athletes, the stories, who's the underdog," Fat Joe said. "What's so important now is how you learn the life stories of these guys and all the obstacles they had to overcome, not just physically. Some of these guys got families and they're struggling. They're working two jobs and at the same time they're training to be the champion of the world. That's my type of thing: the 'Rocky' story. The real-life 'Rocky.' That's what I'm into."

Fat Joe, 44, has never trained in MMA himself, though he has dropped more than 200 pounds over the last few years. Joe said he once walked around at nearly 500 pounds and now he's closer to 275. As far as a fight with another rapper, Joe said he has no beef since his notable one against 50 Cent was squashed years ago.

But that doesn't mean he wouldn't be down for a fight. Joe said he used to get into street fights all the time before he got famous.

"It's been a couple of years, because they start suing me," Joe said. "So I can't do it anymore. After awhile people would bait me into fighting and it would be like a gimmick to sue me. 'Oh, you a punk Fat Joe,' and then once I do something I get sued. I got wise to the gimmick."

There was that one time, though, that Fat Joe almost got into it with someone he wanted nothing to do with: Roy Jones Jr. Joe poked fun to Jones in a lyric from his single "New York," saying "even Roy Jones was forced to lean back" after Jones was knocked out by Glen Johnson in 2004.

Jones Jr. didn't appreciate it and came out Fat Joe during an appearance. Joe said he had to hold his wrists to prevent him from taking a swing.

"Long story short, I convinced him it was just hip hop and we should just leave it at that," Fat Joe said.

Safe to say, Joe probably wouldn't be too excited to mix it up with any MMA fighters this weekend down in Miami, either.

"They're amazing," Joe said. "These guys, they're it. They're in great shape. These guys don't like to smile much. They don't smile. These guys don't even smile. Somebody could be setting it up, Fat Joe meeting the champion. He's excited to meet Fat Joe, but he doesn't care. He still don't smile. I meet the guy and he's still looking at me like he wants to fight me."

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