If you missed Mike Tyson's return to the ring last Saturday, you missed out on an historic comeback and the possible birth of a "Legends Only" league
As demonstrated by Saturday's massively successful pay-per-view, nostalgia sells.
This is nothing new to combat sports promoters - after all, they've cashed in on aging legends for years by continuing to give them fights long after they should move on to greener pastures - but what is new is the competitors themselves shifting to a new perspective on competition.
The classic veteran-versus-young lion match-up has long been virtually every promoter's go-to when putting together a fight featuring a clearly declining fighter with a big name. It's a win-win for promoters as not only do they draw in crowds with the veteran's name value, but should the young up-and-comer or aspiring contender pick up an impressive victory, they now potentially have a new star on their hands. The vets of course tend to believe they still have "it" and thus seek tough fights even if it is no longer in their best interest to do so.
This style of matchmaking is far from healthy for the aging vets, often resulting in them taking excess damage and suffering brutal knockout losses simply because they can't quite compete at the same level they once did, even if they could still dominate against lesser competition.
As any fight fan knows, the drive and love for the sport that propelled fighters to the top of the heap during their careers is a double-edged sword, a pendulum that propels them to greatness and inevitably swings back to tear them apart. Legends keep returning to action believing they still have what it takes to reclaim their former glory, and may even show flashes of their former brilliance in the process, but they inevitably fall as their decaying bodies fail them against much more durable foes.
For every George Foreman or Bernard Hopkins that can turn back the clock and still compete extremely well at an advanced age, there are countless Sugar Ray Leonards and Chuck Liddells that return only to suffer unneccessary damage and humiliating defeat.
A new mentality has gripped the retired or semi-retired veterans of the combat sports world however, with Mike Tyson of all people leading the charge - rather than attempting to turn back the clock and compete with top-tier fighters still in their prime, Tyson is inspiring other legends to return to competition not to face the current cream of the crop, but to face other legends like themselves.
Now it may seem like a no-brainer to some, but it's rare to find many comeback fights for legends that sees them face similarly aged competitors. Almost always, they come back to face elite, much younger fighters in their weight class, and while they occasionally see some success, it's typically short-lived and more often than not they leave the ring with a ton of damage and plenty of disappointed fans.
Bellator MMA was one exception that recently became known for showcasing 40+ year old veterans of the sport and realized the drawing power in pitting legends against one another rather than continuously having them face much younger talent (though they did that as well). Unfortunately many of these kinds of fights that have "graced" their cage have ended up giving Bellator a bad reputation that they're now trying to get away from - rather than motivated, hungry old-timers that can still move and show off some skills, they're broken down shells of themselves in need of a paycheck.
A "Legends Only" league, whether it feature mixed martial arts, boxing, or both, has been discussed frequently over the past few years, spearheaded of course by Mike Tyson and his old rivals along with several MMA legends like Vitor Belfort, but in order for it to have any sort of long-lasting success, it will need to implement some sort of process to avoid the kind of embarassing performances Bellator's old-timer bouts were known for.
Even Roy Jones Jr., who while clearly losing on Saturday to Tyson, showed he can still move and not embarass himself in the ring, yet he himself was one of the many fighters who stayed competing at a high level for too long, finding himself taking a ton of damage and brutal knockout losses before he realized his time at the top was over. From there, he chose to continue to compete but against far lesser competition, still allowing himself to make solid paydays and remain active in the ring without taking much damage, showing other aging fighters that there is a path to continued competition even in their waning years.
The amount of fighters in their forties and fifties that can still move and compete at anything even resembling a high level is however exceptionally low, making an entire league of such athletes a virtual impossibility. One can however put together occasional legends fights to headline a card and draw in the crowds while showcasing younger talent earlier on the card, something that Bellator tried to achieve in MMA.
The key to success isn't in how many legendary names and rivalries they can usher back into the ring (or cage), but rather in keeping the fights competitive and having strong quality control. Now it may be difficult to turn away retired legends who want to compete, especially if their name carries a lot of drawing power, but in order for such a premise to have any lasting effect and to make sure the athletes are safe, it is crucial.
In the past, simply passing basic medicals has been the baseline for letting someone compete, but as we've seen plenty of times before, that doesn't mean they can fight well. Some sort of subjective requirements would need to be instated and passed before letting a fighter enter the cage; perhaps a panel would observe the athlete during a workout and sparring to determine if they can compete or not. While it may be difficult for some fighters to hear, it's much better for them to hear that in a gym rather than facing grim reality after waking up and picking themselves up off the canvas in front of the world.
This potential endeavour would need to ensure its fights are like the kind we saw between Tyson and Jones Jr. (barring the ridiculous "draw" that was declared). If fans are treated to the kind of depressing fare that was Liddell-Ortiz III, support for such events will quickly fall off a cliff.
Putting in some form of quality control would go a long way in garnering fan approval and creating a sustainable business model, and special rules exhibition matches would also be strongly encouraged.
While there was plenty of misinformation going around prior to the bout, the rules Saturday's fight took place under did a great job of making a gruelling boxing match a bit easier for older competitors. Shorter rounds, an unspoken "rule" between the two athletes to avoid landing anything too heavy upstairs and instead only going full-out on the body, and smaller gloves were all intelligent choices to keep the bout interesting and relatively safe without making it feel like it was just a sparring match.
Increasing the amount of time in between rounds could also help the fighters, and similar concessions could easily be implemented for an MMA version of the format, with three minute rounds instead of the standard five.
Of course some of the fighters may not like the idea of not having an official fight or not going for the kill, in which case normal rules (perhaps with less rounds at least) could still be applied supposing both fighters agreed to it.
As for current plans, there's certainly momentum now that Mike Tyson's return was so successful, and Iron Mike has stated he'd like to fight every two months or so against other legends, but what are some of the most intriguing fights that could realistically be made?
There are plenty of fighters that have retired that may still be in great shape and have an urge to compete should the opportunity arise, but here we'll take a look at fighters that we know are in shape and are either actively still looking to compete or have made it clear they're ready for a comeback.
ANDERSON SILVA VS VITOR BELFORT II (MMA)
We'll start off in the world of mixed martial arts with a fight that does have a solid chance of being booked at some point in the future.
The two Brazilian legends first met nearly a decade ago in February 2011 for Anderson's UFC middleweight title. While they shared a mutual respect for each other's careers and skill, the rivalry grew heated as the build-up to the fight stretched on thanks to injury delays - ultimately the two fearsome strikers faced off inside the Octagon at UFC 126, where Anderson threw a kick heard 'round the world that put Belfort to sleep in the opening round in devastating fashion.
The high-profile striker-versus-striker clash and Silva's incredible finish hot off the heels of his ridiculous comeback over rival Chael Sonnen propelled the Spider to new levels of stardom and added to his already impressive aura of dominance, with his front-kick KO playing in virtually every UFC highlight reel for years to come.
After bouncing back with a few first round stoppages of his own and then giving light heavyweight champion Jon Jones an early scare in a short-notice replacement bout, Vitor would earn himself another crack at the middleweight title following a reign of destruction in 2013, knocking out Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson in a combined time of under ten minutes.
A high profile rematch against Anderson Silva was not to be however, as in the midst of Vitor's rampage Anderson's dominant reign over the middleweight division came crumbling down in a sudden and shocking knockout loss to Chris Weidman. An immediate rematch saw Silva's air of invincibility continue to dissipate as he was dominated in the opening round, only to suffer one of the most gruesome injuries in the sport's history when Weidman checked one of his powerful low kicks in the second, snapping Silva's lower leg in half in the process.
With a Belfort-Weidman fight now looming as Silva nursed his shattered leg, the Nevada State Athletic Commission finally put an end to the extremely controversial testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) exemptions that had become a loophole ripe for abuse, with Belfort its most high-profile user.
Forced to stop taking the treatment and with other medications meant to help one's body go through the dangerous process safely also being banned, Vitor took 2014 off to recover and let his body adjust to the changes naturally.
It didn't adjust very well.
When he returned in May of 2015, the 38-year-old looked as if his body had aged several decades overnight, his muscular frame noticeably lacking and now accompanied by flappy, loose skin. Surprisingly, even in his diminished state Belfort was able to rock Weidman early before getting taken down and demolished on the ground, his frightening knockout streak coming to a sad end long before he stepped into the cage that night.
Both Brazilian legends would struggle mightily in the years that passed.
Belfort's body would eventually recover to a more normal physique, but regardless he went just 2-4 in his next six outings with the UFC, getting knocked out badly in all of his losses against top 10 competition. Those defeats included suffering several knockdowns before being finished by Kelvin Gastelum and eating another highlight reel front kick to the face from Silva's longtime training partner Lyoto Machida before he was released from the UFC.
Silva on the other hand would return just a year after suffering his devastating injury to take part in a rather bizarre but entertaining scrap against Nick Diaz, winning on the scorecards before having his own run-in with performance enhancers. He was sentenced to a year away from the sport courtesy of steroids that would forever taint his legacy and cast his prior accomplishments in doubt, particularly when a "tainted supplement" caused another failure later on in his career.
He would continue to return to the Octagon only to lose three of his next four with his lone win being a highly controversial decision, though it should be noted he certainly had his moments in all of the bouts, particularly in his close and similarly controversial decision loss to Michael Bisping and a surprisingly competetive and fun fight with current champion Israel Adesanya.
An injured leg (thankfully not another broken one) following a low kick by Jared Cannonier once again saw the legend injured and needing assistance to exit the cage in 2019, but Silva remained determined, most recently fighting Uriah Hall on Halloween night.
Silva once again was very competitive and looked sharp early - until Hall managed to clip the former champ at the end of round three. Nearly finished before the horn briefly saved him, the 45-year-old simply never recovered and was unceremoniously finished in the fourth, the once-unbeatable kingpin having just one official win in his last nine outings.
Wishing to continue on regardless, Silva was released from his contract and is currently looking for a new promotion to call home.
There's another fight that's likely on the horizon for Silva and it won't be inside of a cage, but should that fight fall through or he wish to return to MMA after that, Vitor Belfort is clearly the top option in his native sport.
Belfort is currently signed with ONE FC, a promotion based in Singapore with a penchant for developing young Asian talent and picking up some high profile free agents in recent years. Vitor is yet to make his debut in their circular cage but like Silva, the 43-year-old has shown he can still compete and has plenty of life left in him, but his body simply can't absorb the kind of damage that's dished out when competing at the highest level.
That makes a match-up between the two a great proposition - they're both similarly aged, both still exhibit plenty of skill and are in great shape, and both clearly still have the drive to compete. The fact that it's a massive rematch fans had been wanting to see for years just makes the fight between the two legends even bigger.
ONE FC has already expressed interest in picking up the Spider, so time will tell if the promotion can put this together - both strikers are also big fans of boxing and have wanted to compete in the ring in the past (both have also dabbled in pro boxing bouts early in their careers, with Belfort holding a 1-0 record and Silva going 1-1 in the ring) so a purely striking match between the two is also a possibility.
MIKE TYSON VS LENNOX LEWIS II (Boxing)
If you somehow missed seeing Mike Tyson in the ring on Saturday, I'll summarize it for you - the 54-year-old living legend is not only still one scary S.O.B., but he put a lot of much younger athletes to shame with his display of skill, power, and beautiful movement Saturday night.
Outlining his goals of fighting other legends roughly every two months for the foreseeable future, the success of the first PPV has already gotten fans and pundits alike debating who Tyson should face off with next.
One of the top choices Tyson could face in 2021 is 55-year-old Canadian legend Lennox Lewis.
Like one of the other opponents being talked about for Iron Mike's next outing, Lewis has plenty of history with "Kid Dynamite" having knocked Tyson out in the 8th round of their 2002 clash in Memphis.
Lewis, who like Tyson was an undisputed heavyweight champion, had long believed that Tyson was an overhyped fighter who he would beat with his superior boxing and demonstrated just that with his victory 18 years ago. While many argue that Tyson was already past his prime by the time he entered the ring with Lennox (who is actually a year his senior), he remains adamant a fight would have gone the same way regardless of when the two met.
Unlike many in combat sports, Lennox was one of the very few fighters that left the sport on top - at 38 years old, the Canadian great hung up his gloves following a sixth round TKO of Vitali Klitschko, just one year after taking out Tyson. He retired with an incredible 41-2-1 record, avenged both of his losses (and a draw against Holyfield), and is to date boxing's last undisputed heavyweight champion.
Tyson, who had put on rather inconsistent performances since returning from a suspension for infamously biting Holyfield in their rematch, would bounce back following the devastating loss to Lewis with a quick KO of Clifford Etienne, a finish that would prove to be the last in Tyson's career.
Unlike Lewis, Tyson would not retire on top or anything close to it - Tyson would gas out early before getting finished by heavy underdop Danny Williams, then return for one last payday in 2005 against the rather lackluster Kevin McBride, who battered the former great until he quit on his stool following the sixth round and announced his retirement immediately after, explaining "I'm not going to disrespect the sport anymore by losing to this caliber of fighter".
Of course Tyson would turn his life around and eventually become the inspiring and comparatively tame figure that he is today, but when he finally got back into a gym last year, there was no stopping him from making a surprise comeback despite his advanced age.
After seeing the impressive results on Saturday, we now know that even a 54-year-old Tyson is still an animal in the ring, but Lennox Lewis still believes that he would best Iron Mike just like he did nearly two decades ago.
Lewis has stoked the fire of a potential rematch even before Tyson's triumphant return to the ring, stating weeks ago that Tyson's skills were still "basic" and he'd happily return to face Tyson in the ring once more, or face Riddick Bowe (who's 53) in a rematch of their controversial 1988 Olympic finals bout.
While we haven't seen Lewis in action for many years, we do know that he has always kept himself in shape and has been in the gym training for a potential comeback. He stayed atop the division even at 38 years of age and didn't take as much damage as many of his contemporaries, so if anyone can still look as good as Tyson in the ring in their mid-fifties, it'd be Lewis.
Whether Lewis is Tyson's next opponent or not, given Mike's plans on staying active Lewis very well could see himself back in the ring with him in the near future regardless for a legendary rematch between two undisputed heavyweight champions.
ANDERSON SILVA VS ROY JONES JR. (Boxing)
This is perhaps the easiest fight on the list to make since both legends of their respective sports have been eying this match-up for years.
Anderson certainly hasn't hid the fact that one of his favourite fighters and a man who he took plenty of inspiration from throughout his career was one Roy Jones Jr., naming him as a dream fight of his years ago and expressing his desire to cross over into boxing to square off against his idol.
Roy has certainly been open to the fight and the two have expressed immense mutual respect for one another, making a match-up in the same vein as what we saw on Saturday a safe bet, with both men getting a chance to show off their talent and signature moves without it turning into a fight that ends with one of the legends knocking the other out cold.
In fact RJ stated immediately following the fight against Tyson that he'd like to face Anderson Silva next, and the biggest obstacle for such an event has now been removed from the equation - Silva's UFC contract.
With Dana White and the UFC's execs having been teasing a venture into boxing promotion for quite some time now, it seems like a massive missed opportunity on their part to have kicked off such a venture with a crossover fight with massive appeal to sports fans, though it's looking likely they've put their boxing plans on hold during the current "pandemic" situation.
Silva for his part is actively fielding offers from a variety of promotions, but one can't help but think that a fight with Roy is being worked on as we speak - RJ has already hinted this week that talks between the two have started and for a star like Anderson, boxing is the most financially lucrative option on the table.
Given that Silva has had very little actual boxing experience outside of the gym, Roy would have a natural advantage competing in a boxing match, but Silva's age (he's 6 years younger) and superior atheticism at this stage of their careers should easily make up for that fact.
Roy certainly moves well given his age and still showed his veteran guile and flashy technique, but Silva has shown that he can still keep up athletically with much younger opposition (so long as he doesn't get caught) and Jones doesn't have the snap on his punches that has given the Spider difficulty in recent years - that said, Anderson's hands have never been very powerful on their own, with his precision and timing against aggressive strikers (and of course his powerful and diverse arsenal of kicks, which won't be a factor here) scoring him his knockouts.
The chance to see two of the slickest and most flashy strikers in combat sports' history face off against one another is a dream come true and seeing how the two fighters would fare against someone with a similar style is worth the price of admission - MMA fans will no doubt remember Silva's fight with Israel Adesanya last year, which instead of the execution it was expected to be, was a highly entertaining fight between two fighters largely using the same style and swagger, something that Silva could definitely replicate in the boxing ring.
The fight is certainly an intriguing one and has massive crossover appeal, and also keeps with the "Legends Only League's" current vibe - a place for fights between legends that share massive respect for one another rather than a home for grudge matches between rivals who can't see their own diminished abilities (again, see Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz III).
FEDOR VS BROCK LESNAR (MMA)
Unlike the other fights on this list, this dream match-up is very unlikely to happen, but given that it is technically possible, and would be the biggest legends-style fight in MMA outside of a Silva-GSP booking (at 39 and given his most recent performance however, St. Pierre isn't old enough and hasn't shown yet that he can't still compete at the highest level and thus isn't included in this list) it deserves consideration.
At one point over a decade ago, these two men were both considered by many to be the baddest men on the planet - and the entire MMA sphere hotly debated which of the two was the true heavyweight king of mixed martial arts.
WWE superstar Brock Lesnar had successfully taken the UFC by storm, capturing the heavyweight crown less than 18 months after his pro debut and avenging his lone early career loss against Frank Mir emphatically at the historic UFC 100. He went on to somehow survive a hellacious beating at the granite hands of Shane Carwin to defend his title with an extremely impressive second round arm triangle choke.
Fans had no doubt that Lesnar was fast-tracked to the title and no one argued that the behemoth "deserved" his title shot given his meager 2-1 record at the time, but his finishes of Randy Couture, Frank Mir, and the afforementioned Shane Carwin proved that the crossover star belonged at the top of the heap regardless of how he got there.
His ridiculous size and strength, combined with his elite wrestling and the incredible durability he showed in the Carwin fight had many fans convinced Lesnar was an unstoppable force and one that would handily beat the much smaller Russian heavyweight kingpin, Fedor Emilianenko.
By the time Lesnar burst onto the MMA scene, Fedor had already established himself as one of the most accomplished fighters in the sport's young history. The rather unassuming figure cut his teeth for Japanese promotion RINGS in the early 2000's, racking up a 10-1 record to start his career (with his lone loss being a highly controversial doctor's stoppage due to a cut suffered just 17 seconds into a fight) before making his way to the immensely popular PRIDE organization.
There he would quickly showcase his extremely well-rounded skillset (particularly for a heavyweight) and nasty ground and pound to dominate PRIDE's legendary heavyweight stable, capturing the organization's most coveted title by demolishing early MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and going on to win the 2004 PRIDE Heavyweight Grand Prix as well.
The quiet Russian force was celebrated for his wins over the likes of Mirko Cro Cop (in a truly spectacular war in 2005), Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, and Mark Hunt, but was also known to take part in plenty of "freakshow" and squash matches, a popular theme in Japan (just see his bouts against the likes of 7'2 Hong Man-Choi or the 390-pound Zuluzinho).
His rather inconsistent level of opposition was cause for many to label Fedor a "can-crusher" and state that Emilianenko would need to ply his trade in the UFC to definitively prove he was the legitimate heavyweight king - after PRIDE was purchased and absorbed by Zuffa in 2007, it seemed as though Fedor's arrival in the UFC and his chance to prove his naysayers wrong had arrived. That is until talks between the UFC and Fedor's management eventually blew up and nixed those plans for good.
Thanks to unreasonable demands from his management company that insisted on co-promotion with the vastly larger UFC, Fedor would never make his way to the world famous Octagon, eventually making his way to America by way of the upstart Affliction promotion instead.
After his next opponent, another former UFC champion, failed a pre-fight drug test (the third such failed test in his career) that ended up shuttering the failing Affliction promotion, Fedor would sign with the UFC's next largest competitor (back then), Strikeforce, where he made his debut late in 2009. Though he ended up scoring a brutal second round knockout, Fedor lost the first round badly against the rather lackluster Brett Rogers and appeared to struggle with the sheer size of his opponent, something many pointed to as being a sign that Fedor was slowing down and that a fight with Lesnar wouldn't go very well for the aging legend.
With Lesnar hot off his destruction of Frank Mir and Fedor continuing to fight stateside, hype surrounding a potential, even if unlikely, faceoff reached a fever pitch regardless - but both men would soon suffer a dramatic decline in their respective careers.
Fedor's next outing in Strikeforce saw his legendary 27-fight winning streak go up in smoke as the "Last Emperor" was put into a triangle choke by Fabricio Werdum and forced to tap just 69 seconds into the opening round of their bout.
A month later Lesnar successfully defended his title for a second (and final) time by defeating Shane Carwin - three months after that he would be utterly humiliated and beaten down by Cain Velasquez. Fedor would go on to be dominated himself by the much larger Bigfoot Silva and extend his losing streak to three by being knocked out by the normally-middleweight Dan Henderson.
Clearly past his prime, Fedor would return overseas to take on much lesser competition to end his career in 2012 (for a time at least) with a few easy wins.
Lesnar would return just once in 2011, getting utterly decimated by Alistair Overeem before announcing his own retirement from the sport and returning to the WWE.
With the two heavyweights now retired and both having suffered devastating losses that marked an end to their dominance, fan hype surrounding a potential showdown dwindled, though rumours of comebacks for both men would occasionally flare up excitement once more.
After over three years away, Fedor made a comeback late in 2015 for RIZIN, the spiritual successor to PRIDE, where he picked up an easy TKO win over a kickboxer with virtually no MMA experience. He went on to fight in his native Russia against UFC light heavyweight dropout Fabio Maldanaldo, where he would somehow pick up a decision "victory" against the Brazilian despite being clearly knocked unconscious at least twice in the opening round.
Just one month later Lesnar would make his own return to the sport after half a decade away, returning to the Octagon to defeat top-10 ranked Mark Hunt in a workmanlike performance (and one that was actually quite impressive given his time away from the sport and the quality of his opponent). Unfortunately for Lesnar, USADA caught him using an estrogen blocker that turned his win into a no-contest and handed the PED-popping wrestler a 1-year suspension.
Lesnar hasn't returned to MMA since, though plenty of rumours have swirled about fight negotiations over the years, from a title fight opposite Daniel Cormier to a scrap against Jon Jones.
Fedor on the other hand has returned stateside to fight for the latest UFC competitor, Bellator, posting a 3-2 record against mixed competition; he lost his debut by knockout against Matt Mitrione following a rare double-knockdown, knocked out a poorly-aged Frank Mir and a natural middleweight in Chael Sonnen, was starched by light heavyweight Ryan Bader in 35 seconds, then most recently knocked out an overweight Rampage Jackson at the end of last year.
Neither man has been able to consistently hang with top competition in recent years and have certainly seen better days, but fans still to this day debate who would have won back in their respective primes and rumours surrounding the two competing in a dream fight continue to pop up every now and then.
With Fedor still currently signed with Bellator, one might think a fight between him and Lesnar isn't possible, particularly given that Lesnar still has 6 months worth of USADA testing he still needs to perform in order to compete stateside - but fighting overseas, particularly in Japan where they couldn't care less about USADA or PEDs in general, remains a possibility.
Bellator boss Scott Coker has long been open to co-promoting events and has had crossover events and fights with RIZIN before - the Japanese promotion has also shown they have investors willing to shell out big bucks for the right names, as shown by Floyd Mayweather's exhibition match against Tenshin Nasukawa in 2018.
While Lesnar is known for being a UFC commodity, he did start out his pro MMA career with a squash match co-promoted by Japanese promoter FEG (they produced K1 kickboxing and Hero's MMA in Japan) and the similarly defunct EliteXC before signing with the UFC, and has no current MMA deal in place.
His run-ins with USADA and their mandatory involvement in any potential return to the Octagon make Lesnar coming back to the UFC very unlikely - if not even just for his own image, but that of the WWE's, who allowed Lesnar to compete against Mark Hunt while he was under contract. The company was open to letting Brock compete in more bouts before he had tested positive, but since then the WWE not wanting to expose their star to more PED controversies for other fights was said to be a roadblock to Lesnar's rumoured comebacks in the years since.
It would make much more sense for all to have Lesnar fight overseas for a one-off, massive PPV showdown. Bellator would co-promote the proposed event and lend RIZIN Fedor alongside some of their other stars to create a card worthy of a high-profile pay-per-view, and a massive arena crowd reminiscent of classic PRIDE events would further bolster the return on their investments (when crowds return of course).
A fight between the two, even with their recent history and both men being years removed from their best days, would still draw massive numbers and isn't outside of the realm of possibility. The match-up is still talked about plenty amongst MMA fans and would attract worldwide attention - Lesnar is a superstar in North America and is a massive pay-per-view draw, while Fedor is an icon overseas and attracts the European and Asian markets.
The WWE would likely be willing to let Lesnar compete to keep their star happy given there would be no chance of a PED failure or the blowback it would cause, and fans would happily ignore this skirting of the rules given that the two would be on an even playing field.
The potential fight would largely play out like it could have had they fought during their time atop the sport - if Lesnar manages to get Emilianenko to the mat, he could overwhelm the smaller athlete and dominate using his wrestling acumen and heavy ground and pound; if Fedor can stuff Lesnar's shots and force Brock into a stand-up fight, his heavy hands and far superior striking give him a massive edge.
Either way seeing the two stars sharing the same cage would be a surreal experience and one that fans wouldn't forget anytime soon - even if it's about a decade after fans envisioned.
MIKE TYSON VS EVANDER HOLYFIELD III (Boxing)
There really is nothing bigger than this one - a trilogy fight like no other, one final showdown to settle the score nearly a quarter-century later.
By the time Evander Holyfield first fought Mike Tyson in 1996, Iron Mike had managed to recapture the aura of invincibility he had held earlier in the decade. That mystical quality of course had previusly been shattered by one massive upset courtesy of Buster Douglas and the legal troubles that plagued him in the early 90's, which ended up forcing him out of the sport for four years.
Tyson returned from his stint in prison with a vengeance in 1995 and quickly got himself back into the thick of things at heavyweight, knocking out Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon to recapture the WBC and WBA titles respectively.
His first defense of the WBA title was set to be against one Evander Holyfield, a former heavyweight champion who at one point in time was promised a title shot against Tyson in 1990, only for the fight to fall apart thanks to the afforementioned Buster Douglas shocker.
Holyfield of course ran through Buster to claim the WBA, WBC and IBF titles for himself, and went on to defend them with wins over George Foreman, Bert Cooper, and Larry Holmes before the 28-0 champion ran into fellow undefeated fighter Riddick Bowe, who handed Holyfield the first loss of his professional career.
After getting himself back in the win column, a rematch with Bowe went Holyfield's way by majority decision and saw him reclaim the throne in a bizarre night (a parachutist famously crashed into the ring mid-fight), only to lose it in the same manner courtesy of a majority decision at the hands of Michael Moorer.
A win against knockout artist Ray Mercer preceeded a rubber match against old rival Riddick Bowe - the series ultimately went to Bowe in emphatic fashion as he scored a standing TKO and became the first man to finish Holyfield.
Evander would bounce back with a win over a lesser fighter in Bobby Czyz, but with losses in three of his last seven bouts and having turned 34, four years Tyson's senior, many had written off Holyfield's chances of stopping Tyson's roaring comeback.
Unfortunately for Tyson, Evander had everything Kid Dynamite could handle and then some, outboxing Iron Mike from the opening bell and smothering him in the clinch to frustrate and tire the feared knockout artist, eventually breaking him down for an eleventh round TKO victory.
What many don't realize however is how much a dirty but extremely effective tactic led to Holyfield's dominance - the headbutt.
Evander was the king of scoring "accidental" and subtle headbutts, regularly causing clashes while going for clinches and consistently leading with his head to score headbutts that went unnoticed by referees and even sometimes his opponents.
In fact, Mike Tyson himself remarked following the fight and at length in his autobiography about how he remembers being in a fog early on in his fight with Holyfield and repeatedly feeling dazed even when he hadn't been hit, and only realized after the fight that Evander was repeatedly headbutting him when his corner pointed it out on tape.
The massive rematch in 1997 that followed is of course one of the most famous in modern history - Tyson was disqualified at the end of round three for for biting a chunk of Holyfield's ear off, causing a near-riot to erupt in the arena on a night that would become even more notorious after rapper Tupac Shakur was gunned down and killed after leaving the arena that evening.
While Tyson's actions were certainly despicable, it should be noted that Evander was once again repeatedly headbutting Tyson as is evident from watching the fight back, with one such clash of heads opening a major cut on Tyson's brow. Despite repeated complaints to the referee and Tyson's team advising the commission before the fight even began to watch for Evander's headbutts in their rematch, referee Mills Lane did absolutely nothing to penalize Holyfield and allowed him to continue unabated.
This time rather than accepting the fouls, when Holyfield clinched up with him in the third round, Tyson bit Evander's ear in retaliation. After a two point deduction and plenty of chaos, the fight resumed, only for Evander to continue with his head-fighting and Tyson to once again take things into his own hands, biting Evander once more which ultimately resulted in his disqualification, a fine of over $3 million dollars, and the loss of his boxing license.
The media and pundits rightly chided Tyson for his ear-biting, but were virtually silent on Evander's repeated headbutts - knowing what we know about head trauma today, perhaps Holyfield's fouls would have garnered more attention had they happened today? In fact one could easily argue that headbutts can cause far worse long-term damage than biting someone's ear ever could.
Regardless, the two would never meet again inside the ring - Tyson would never again reach his prior highs, with personal issues and substance abuse leaving his performances inconsistent before he ran into Lennox Lewis in 2002, who handed Tyson an eighth round knockout loss.
A quick KO proved to be the last pro victory of Tyson's career, shortly after which he filed for bankruptcy. He returned twice more in cash-grab comebacks over as many years to lose embarassingly to far lesser boxers before officially retiring in 2005.
Holyfield on the other hand would have continued success following the infamous Tyson rematch, avenging his loss to Michael Moorer to capture the IBF belt and defending it before taking part in a rare draw opposite Lennox Lewis. Lewis would take the rematch before Evander took part in a trilogy of bouts with John Ruiz, going 1-1-1 against "The Quietman".
From there Holyfield would struggle - he won a technical decision after an "accidental clash of heads" resulted in swelling to his opponent's eye which stopped the fight after eight rounds (go figure), then lost his next three outings.
From there the aging former champion took on lesser competition to get back into championship form before attempting to recapture titles in 2007 and 2008, though he lost both decisions. Holyfield finished his career on a high note however, winning two of his last three bouts by TKO (the other bout was a No Contest due to, you guessed it, an accidental clash of heads) before hanging up his gloves at the age of 48 in 2011.
The now 58-year-old has kept himself in great shape in his retirement and has even developed a friendship with Mike Tyson despite their past, but that doesn't mean the two aren't ready to get back at each other inside the ring.
Holyfield was widely expected to be Tyson's comeback opponent until Roy Jones Jr. was selected - Holyfield has publically stated that it was Tyson who declined to fight him and suggested Tyson wanted a tune-up fight first, though rumours say Holyfield asked for a whopping $25 million to compete.
Regardless, Tyson stated he would love to face Holyfield for a trilogy bout after his return on Saturday, while Evander has since stated that he's waiting on the contract and is ready to go - at 58 years old Evander is definitely one of the oldest to attempt to compete, but given he was still active and performing quite well at an advanced age when he retired at 48 and still looks to be in great condition (plus there's those questionable ties to HGH clinics in his past), he still may be able to perform at a solid clip.
A third match between the two would certainly capture the world's attention, even more so than Tyson's comeback did this past weekend (which reportedly did well over a million buys) and all parties seem to be on board. The only question is - will the two be able to deliver a friendly exhibition match, or will the famous rivalry boil over once more and all hell break loose?
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