Couture welcomes Toney’s verbal jabs

Few men have accomplished more in their sports than Randy Couture and James Toney.

Couture is an Ultimate Fighting Championship Hall of Famer and a five-time champion. Toney went unbeaten in the first 46 bouts of his boxing career and has won 72 fights and multiple world titles in five weight classes.

There is a temptation to label their UFC 118 co-main event bout tonight in Boston as some sort of referendum on the merits of boxing versus those of mixed martial arts.

But Couture, who will enter as nearly a 7-to-1 favorite, knows he has the edge in a bout that will be contested under rules with which he is far more familiar.

“Boxing is a great sport. I’ve enjoyed boxing my whole life,” said Couture, a 47-year-old Las Vegan. “But this is still the octagon and still MMA. There’s cage tactics. There’s ground fighting. There’s a lot of things that don’t happen in boxing that are going to happen in the cage.”

The bottom line is the two sports are different. Boxing is just a small part of MMA.

Toney, 42, isn’t buying any of it as he prepares for his MMA debut. He seems to think a fight is a fight regardless of the setting or the rules. Or, at least, that’s what he’s telling people.

Toney, who weighed in Friday at a whopping 237 pounds for the heavyweight bout, has continually insisted he’s the world’s best fighter and will simply knock out Couture with his superior punching abilities.

“You’ll see James do what he does best, and that’s knock his head off,” said Toney, speaking, as usual, in third person. “I’m not worried about whatever Randy’s going to do. Randy’s going to be Randy, James will be James. But you know what? I’m winning. Point blank, hands down. If he decides to get close to me, he knows it’s a wrap for him.”

Toney’s verbal abilities are largely responsible for him ending up in this position.

He followed UFC president Dana White around to several UFC events and crashed news conferences, hyping his skills and trashing those of mixed martial artists, until White finally relented and signed the boxing veteran to a deal.

Couture was taking notes.

“I heard his hit list and all the things he was saying about the MMA guys and how he was going to knock them all out, and I was certainly on that list,” Couture said. “So, I was definitely a guy that raised my hand and said, ‘Hey, I’ll welcome him in.’ “

White, who rarely makes picks or chooses sides, has been clear he wants to see Toney dispatched of quickly.

Couture said he thinks that’s why he was given the first crack at Toney. He possesses the wrestling and grappling skills that probably will confound the boxer and the experience to not get suckered, or talked, into a standup battle.

“They realize with my background and the way I’ve won most of my fights, there’s a pretty good chance that I’m going to be able to put him on his back and ultimately make the point that needs to be made,” said Couture, who weighed in at 220 pounds. “I don’t want to get too carried away with James until I get him on his back. Then, it’s on.

“I would love to choke the hell out of him, absolutely.”

Toney, who expects to continue competing in both sports, didn’t pull any punches in assessing Couture’s likely game plan.

“He’s talking about he’s going to lay on top of me,” Toney said. “God bless him, but I ain’t no female, so I ain’t going down like that. He’s getting knocked out.

“Randy’s good at what he does. I’m great at what I do.”

The pay-per-view broadcast of the organization’s first event in Massachusetts will begin at 7 p.m.

Frankie Edgar will defend the lightweight title against the man he took it from in April — BJ Penn. Edgar stunned Penn by taking a unanimous decision in a bout fought almost entirely on the feet but still is about a plus-250 underdog in the rematch.

Also, Las Vegan Gray Maynard will fight Kenny Florian to determine the probable next opponent for the Edgar-Penn winner.

Demian Maia will fight for the first time since losing to Anderson Silva for the middleweight title when he takes on Mario Miranda, and Nate Diaz will meet Marcus Davis.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509.

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