'Iron' Mike Tyson is no stranger to mixed martial arts as a long time fan of the sport and close friend of UFC President Dana White. The former world heavyweight boxing champion has been seen at many UFC events and as a guest on the Ultimate Fighter. Tyson recently spoke to ESPN about his love of the sport and how it all started:
Rossen: You were one of the first boxers to acknowledge mixed martial arts as a legitimate combat sport. Do you remember when you first watched the UFC?
Tyson: My friends were all at my house one day, and we see these guys promoting these cage fights, right? When everybody was over, people were normally inebriated, so we said, “We’re putting this on. We’re gonna watch this!” Next thing you know, we’re watching Ken Shamrock and someone fight. Bang! I’m saying, “This is real, man. This is on!”
We started watching it every time we got the chance. We’ve been following the guys since [Royce] Gracie, Shamrock, [Dan] Severn. It just kept evolving and evolving.
Rossen: At those early shows, sometimes people in the crowd would hold up signs saying, “Tyson vs. Gracie.” What would you think when you saw that?
Tyson: Yeah! That was so awesome. I love all kinds of fighting. To say I only love two guys putting on gloves and only punching, I would be a moron to say that.
Rossen: Did you ever seriously consider an offer to fight MMA when you were active as an athlete?
Tyson: Not really, because by the time it took off, I was already doing boxing. This is something you have to start when you’re 12 or 13. It has to be a passion. That’s the problem with boxing: There’s no passion. People want to be record producers, rappers. In MMA, you see that passion. Georges St-Pierre, this is all he wants to do. That’s why he’s so successful.
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