Mike Tyson will get a special visitor to his training camp next week when UFC President Dana White checks out the boxing legend’s routine for an eight-round exhibition against fellow ex-champ Roy Jones Jr.
“I’m flying out probably next week to watch him train,” White told reporters on Friday.
White added he’s “100 percent supportive” of the fight, which takes place Sept. 12 in Carson, Calif., and airs on pay-per-view and the social media platform Triller.
“I’m excited for [Tyson],” the UFC exec said. “He says he’s got that fire, he wants to fight, he wants this, Jones wants it, they’re grown men – I’m 100 percent supportive.”
Tyson and Jones Jr. have hyped up the fight by promising to go full force in the ring. Privately, however, they’ve been given a clear set of expectations on the fight from the California State Athletic Commission, which will regulate the event.
“We can’t mislead the public as to this is some kind of real fight,” CSAC Executive Director Andy Foster told BoxingScene.com. “They can get into it a little bit, but I don’t want people to get hurt. They know the deal.
“It’s an exhibition. They can exhibit their boxing skills, but I don’t want them using their best efforts to hurt each other. They’re going to spar hard, but they shouldn’t be going for a knockout.”
That understanding could inform White’s opinion of the aging legends’ rendezvous. He’s never shied away from recommending retirement for fighters who won’t have the drive or ability to compete.
Frequently, White’s opinion on the “r” word has been offered amid disputes over pay. And as the coronavirus pandemic has reshaped the promotion’s priorities, he’s framed the dispute as a simple choice for the fighter: fight, or stay retired (and still under contract).
“These guys are retired,” White recently said in response to a call from former two-division champ Henry Cejudo, who called for several fights after announcing he’d only come out of retirement for the right number. “I’m not even thinking about any of those guys. They’re retired. There are so many kids right now that are here, that want to fight. Those are the people that I’m focused on.”
White has also cited health and safety concerns when expressing opposition to the return of longtime allies. He called Foster’s decision to sanction a third fight between UFC Hall of Famers Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz “disgusting” after Liddell was knocked out in the first round. Initially, he said he wished the fight wasn’t happening and hoped Liddell earned a lucrative payday.
With a $49.99 price tag, Tyson, 54, and Jones Jr., 51, could make a healthy chunk of change if the public is enticed to watch aging legends tamely spar. With a UFC fight night planned for Sept. 12, and a yet-unknown set of safety protocols for preventing the spread of COVID-19, White said he “probably” won’t be there to see what happens. As for who will come out ahead, he said, “I have no clue.”
“Ask me that question next week after I go to camp and watch him train,” White said. “I’ll give you an honest answer.”