Ryan Garcia is not coming to MMA in 2025
Last week, boxer Ryan Garcia made headlines in the world of mixed martial arts. In an interview on The Rich Eisen Show, the unbeaten 22-year-old champion confessed his plans to not only retire in four years but his interest in a move to MMA “to prove a point” he could be the best fighter in combat sports.
Garcia isn’t the first star from boxing to threaten a transition to cage-fighting. The current WBC interim lightweight champion is just the latest in a recent trend of boxing influencers faking the funk on a change of profession.
He’s not the first and won’t be the last
Pop quiz hotshot: what do boxing luminaries Floyd Mayweather, Amir Khan, and Tyson Fury have in common? If you said world champion pugilists and millionaires, you would be correct. But they are also men who have faked a move to the cage.
We all remember former five-division champ Mayweather peddling the idea of a cage-fight before, during, and after his boxing match with Conor McGregor in 2017. While it might have been the loudest and most memorable hollow claim of a switch in sports, he was far from the first to do it in recent years.
Beating him to the punch (pun intended) a year before was Khan. In the lead up to his fight with pound-for-pound superstar Canelo Alvarez, the Olympic silver medalist and former titleholder admitted his own interest in competing in a cage fight. As well as some previous experience training in MMA. As he told reporters at a media event, “Doing MMA training means I know the positions to be in. It’s all about the feet. MMA is a little slower than boxing but you make up for that by using your elbows and knees. I can kick hard, don’t worry about that,” Khan had said. “I also believe boxers punch harder than MMA fighters.”
“King Khan” went on to fight four more times in boxing and popped up on an unflattering video last year grappling with four-fight Dagestani MMA prospect Muhammad Mokaev. Based on the video, the British star does not look primed for a jump to MMA any time soon.
An often-forgotten addition to this hall-of-wishful MMA fighters is Fury. Well before he became a worldwide star by scooping up championship belts from heavyweight greats like Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder, “The Gypsy King” was in “dialogue” with a major MMA promotion. However, it was not with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but Bellator. As Bellator President Scott Coker informed MMAJunkie in 2015.
“I told his manager he’s going to get taken down, he’s going to get submitted, or he’s going to get hurt,” Coker said at the time. “And [the manager said], ‘Well, he really wants to do it.’ I said OK, and that’s when we started talking.”MMAJunkie, 2015.
Coker is a fight promotion veteran and knew better when he later added, “Let’s see how serious he is.” In 2021, Fury is one of the most famous athletes in the world and earns double-digit million-dollar paydays per fight. So don’t get your hopes up for Fury versus Stipe Miocic fight.
Boxers in MMA has happened… for a specific reason
There are actual cases of championship boxers with notable accolades stepping into the cage. Multi-division champion James Toney stunned many when he competed in a one-off for the UFC, against promotional hall-of-famer Randy Couture. However, that situation was not about a top star seeking out new challenges outside the sport. “Light Out” was 81-fights deep into a 22-year boxing career. And his star had drifted away from relevancy and worthwhile paydays. This one instance in the Octagon offered the aging great a spotlight and check boxing wasn’t giving him at 42-years-old.
In ways, it mirrors the transitions of Holly Holm, and now, Claressa Shields into MMA. Before Holm became a UFC star and bantamweight champion, she won multiple titles in boxing. However, she never reached the notoriety or bank account balance her skills would have garnered if she were a man. The same goes for two-time Olympic gold medalist Shields and her recent signing with the Professional Fighters League. Despite being viewed as the best pound-for-pound female boxer in the world, money, and fame have no reigned down on the middleweight champion. Moving to MMA for those ladies was a logical decision with a great deal of upside.
Why Garcia is not switching sports
The cases of Toney, Holm, and Shields were all motivated by monetary gain. Throughout the history of both sports, boxing has been the undisputed king of fighter pay. Granted, Garcia’s dissatisfaction with recent fight purses has been a point of contention for the young talent. However, much can change in just the next year. The idea of a 26-year-old who has not even hit his physical or financial prim, deciding to leave behind potentially massive paydays for a discounted rate in a cage-fight is the height of madness.
If he continues on this career trajectory, the silver-medaled slugger will be cashing million-dollar checks in no time. Especially as his star continues to rise, fans return to arenas, and more pay-per-view points get added to future contracts. His retirement and MMA chatter are clever ploys by a young businessman angling for better leverage in future negotiations. He is not the first boxer to do it and he certainly won’t be the last.Join the discussion on this topic...