Commentary

The Great Debate, Part II: The fighters weigh in

MMA or boxing? Who's tougher? To settle the score, ESPN The Magazine got former "Contender" fighter Zab Judah and Rampage Jackson in the same room. A fiery debate ensued between the two.

Updated: August 29, 2007, 8:11 PM ET
By Ryan Hockensmith | ESPN The Magazine

ESPN The Magazine welcomed two of the toughest men on the planet into its offices. The topic: boxing versus mixed martial arts. As expected, UFC champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and former three-time boxing champion Zab Judah battled to a draw. Here's the transcript from their hourlong discussion.

ESPN: In this corner, we have Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. He stands 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, and has a mixed-martial arts record of 27-6 with 10 knockouts.
Rampage: I'm 220 right now.
ESPN: And in this corner, we have the Brooklyn legend Zab "Super" Judah, who is 34-5 with 24 knockouts. He stands 5-foot-7 and is 147 pounds. At one point, Judah held the WBC, WBA and IBF championship belts. And he gave Floyd Mayweather a hell of a hard time a few years ago.

ESPN: OK, so let's talk about the two sports. Which sport is better?
Rampage: Well, I'm not here to say what's better. I'm here to say what's different. MMA is different. [There's] a lot more things to look out for. I think we should be called fighters, and boxers should be called fighters. Because they are boxing and we're fighting. We've got knees, elbows, kicks, slams, submissions and wrestling.

ESPN: So tell us about boxing why boxing is a better sport.
Judah: I wouldn't say it's better. It's no better or worse. Boxing is boxing and what they do is what they do.

ESPN: What's more fun to watch?
Judah: I would say MMA. There is a lot of blood and excitement.
ESPN: So you love to watch MMA fights?
Judah: Yeah. I go to a lot of fights.
Rampage: I'm going to have to agree with him on that. De La Hoya and Mayweather was the last big fight, and I think I'm the only one who got knocked out in that fight. I fell asleep twice. I woke up and the fight was still going on.
Judah: I was asleep, too.
Rampage: I love boxing, though. I now train boxing and that's why I'm knocking folks out. I got that fancy footwork like a boxer trying to work on ducking and weaving. I watch it but sometimes I end up taking a nap.
Judah: I'll be the bad guy. The Mayweather-De La Hoya fight was garbage.

ESPN: Zab, your fight a few months ago with Miguel Cotto was a fan favorite and one of the best fights of the year. What made fans enjoy that so much?
Judah: It was a bloodbath for 11 rounds. It was just all-out war. I mean, both fighters came in there just prepared to do whatever. And that was great. We didn't come in there to run all night. We came in there to get down.
ESPN: Are there boxing matches you watch [in which] you wish the fighters would push the action?
Judah: Yeah, a lot of fights. Mayweather-De LA Hoya was one of them. Every fight that Floyd fights is like that.
ESPN: What can boxing do to make more bouts like the one you had with Miguel Cotto?
Judah: Just keep paying me more. That's it.
ESPN: How can boxing get more fighters to push the action?
Judah: It depends on the fighter. Some people just fight for the money and some people fight just for the passion of it.

ESPN: What would make MMA bouts better?
Judah: I don't like when they be on the ground too much. And they're down there for a long time. I could see them standing up a little bit more.
Rampage: I agree with him on that, too. I don't like that. If I was a referee, as soon as they go to the ground, if they ain't doing nothing, I would break it up.
ESPN: What would you change about boxing?
Rampage: I don't like when one boxer grabs too much. Why you want to hug up on him? That's two men in there sweating. If I was a boxer I'd be like, "Man, don't hug me."
ESPN: But you've done some grounding and pounding in the octagon.
Rampage: Yeah, I'm on the ground and pounding, but it's action. It's not just laying on him and wrestling on him on the ground. When I take somebody down to the ground, I'm still trying to knock them the hell out even though we on the ground.

ESPN: Zab, how long would Rampage last in a boxing ring?
Judah: He would be fighting heavyweights like Klitschko and Shannon Briggs. Them some big dudes.
ESPN: So, would he last 30 seconds?
Judah: No, I mean, he's a fighter.
Rampage: I don't know. Like he said, them some big guys. I probably wouldn't last too long in the boxing ring.

ESPN: Zab, how would you do in the octagon?
Judah: Give me about 30 seconds. As soon as I go down, it's over. I quit.
ESPN: Would you ever entertain the idea of training for a year and trying it?
Judah: I actually trained in MMA before, and it's not me. As soon as you kick me and knee me, it's over. We could punch it out. But knees and all that? I'm done.
Rampage: Yeah, that hurts a little bit more than punches. When I get punched in the face, it really doesn't bother me that much. But a kick to the leg? That really hurts.
ESPN: Rampage, if you spent six months doing just striking, how would you do in a boxing match?
Rampage: It depends on who you put me in there with. If you put me in there with a chump, I might lay his ass out. But if you put me in there with one of those top guys, I might swallow some teeth.
ESPN: OK, so a year from now, you vs.Wladimir Klitschko?
Rampage: I wouldn't fight him for anything under $10-20 million.
Judah: That's right. Get the money. It's all about the money.
Rampage: If you put a couple of million in there, I'd try and whoop his ass.

ESPN: What's better, the ring or the octagon?
Rampage: It doesn't bother me. With the octagon, it's kind of hard for the fans to see a lot of time. When I go to the show, I'm looking at the monitor and I'm there right in front of the damn cage. But the people who got the higher-up seats, they probably got the better seats. But if you're front row at a boxing match, you can see right through the ropes. But I've also seen people get knocked through the ropes. They fall in your lap. That ain't fun, having a sweaty 250-pound guy in your lap, getting your new clothes wet.
Judah: I like their ring. It's bigger. It's a real, real big ring. It's kind of cool.

ESPN: Do you think that there are guys out there who could cross over and try the other sport?
Judah: I think Ricky Hatton would do pretty well in that sport. I probably could do it. I can do anything that I put my mind to. I mean, if I focus my mind, I could do it.

ESPN: How would Zab Judah do against Sean Sherk?
Rampage: Sherk would just try to take him down the whole fight. That wouldn't be an exciting fight. Give him somebody that doesn't have that much wrestling experience that likes to punch, and that would be an exciting fight. If I trained you for a year, teach you how to fight MMA style, man, you'd go out there and knock some folks out. But Sherk, he just tries [to] take people down the whole time. I like him because I'm a wrestler. But I like to get up and bang as well. I want to make it exciting. I don't want to just grab somebody and hold them down the whole time.
ESPN: So you could turn Zab into a good MMA fighter?
Rampage: I like the way he punches. You got to be aggressive in MMA and he is very aggressive.
ESPN: Zab, could you train Rampage to box?
Judah: Definitely. He's a strong fighter. I could get him ready in like three or four months.
Rampage: That's all I would need training him, too. All he really needs is takedown defense and jiu-jitsu defense. He don't even need to work on standup. He's the champion. All he's got to do is keep people from taking him down. This is the thing about MMA. When someone is good at one thing, we go to the other thing we think they're not good at. Say if I was fighting someone who was really good on the ground. I'm going to try and keep it standing up. Because most likely he's not that good standing up since he's better on the ground. But see, Zab's better standing, so everybody is going to try and get him down. The best thing to do is have him work on his wrestling, and if they get him down teach him how to stand back up and some defending jiu-jitsu. Because they're going to try and take him down and choke him out. I'd just teach him takedown defense and how to get the hell up.

ESPN: A lot of people who are either MMA or boxing fans don't think a guy can cross over and be successful.
Rampage: I think people can, because of kickboxers. I did some kickboxing and I did all right, and I'm a wrestler. But boxing is a little bit different. I saw some kickboxers go into wrestling and get their ass handed to them, you know. I saw vice versa as well. It's just different, depending on who you put them in there with. I'm willing to represent the UFC. I ain't no coward. I'll go into the boxing ring and fight somebody but I ain't fighting no big-ass heavyweight who is really tough. Give me an old has-been.
Judah: Larry Holmes or somebody.
Rampage: Yeah, give me somebody who is like half dead who retired 10 years ago. Pay me like $10-20 million and I'll put on a good show.
ESPN: If somebody offered you $20 million tomorrow to do it, would you do it?
Rampage: Tomorrow? Hell, yeah, I'd cancel my fight I got right now.
ESPN: You honestly would?
Rampage: For $20 million? What's wrong with you? I'm from the streets of Memphis. Twenty million dollars to cancel my fight I got? Man, hell yeah.
ESPN: You would drop your UFC belt and go fight a boxing match?
Rampage: I can go buy another belt that looks just like that. That's a good payday for a mixed martial artist. We're not making the big money like the boxers.

ESPN: The heavyweight boxing champion used to be the toughest man in the world. Now who's the toughest man on the planet? And don't say Steven Seagal.
Rampage: Steven Seagal? Hell, no, he's a fat ass. He got a beer belly just like Chuck Liddell. Did I say that on camera? My fault. Nah, I think Fedor Emelianenko from Russia is one of the toughest guys on the planet.
ESPN: Are you scared of Fedor?
Rampage: I ain't scared of no man.
ESPN: Would you fight Fedor?
Rampage: For $20 million, I'll fight Fedor, his momma, his daddy, his brother, his cousin.

ESPN: Zab, when you talk to boxers, do they like MMA? Do they watch it?
Judah: Yeah, we go to the fights all the time in Vegas. It's a brutal sport. I love it.

ESPN: Rampage, do MMA guys watch boxing?
Rampage: Yeah, a lot of MMA guys watch boxing. We look up to a lot of them. A lot of us train boxing. But I like the referees. They look funny. I go to see what the referees are doing. That's kind of amusing to me.

ESPN: What's a better finish? Knockout or chokeout?
Judah: Knockout.
Rampage: You can knock them out, but when you choke them out they can't do nothing.
Judah: But when you choke somebody out it takes longer than knocking somebody out.
Because when you choking somebody out, you got to sit there and hold them until they go to sleep. Knockout, it's one punch .

Rampage: I'd rather watch a knockout.
Judah: Yeah, he likes knockouts. See his last fight?
Rampage: Yeah, that's my thing.

ESPN: Better promoter, Dana White or Don King?
Judah: I'm going with Dana.
Rampage: I'm going to go with Dana White because that's my boss!

ESPN: Better Buffer, Michael or Bruce?
Rampage: Bruce is my boy. I like Michael's "Let's get ready to rumble!" But I like my boy Bruce.
Judah: Michael Buffer.

ESPN: What's better, three-minute rounds or five-minute rounds?
Judah: I like five.
Rampage: But would you like to have a fight with 12 five-minute rounds?
Judah: Yeah.
Rampage: That's crazy, man. I like the five-minute rounds, too.

ESPN: Better reality show, "The Contender" or "The Ultimate Fighter"?
Rampage: "The Contender." I mean, "The Ultimate Fighter."
Judah: "The Contender."

ESPN: Better referee, Big John McCarthy or Mills Lane?
Rampage: Let's get it on!
Judah: Mills Lane.
Rampage: I have to say Mills Lane. He's the man. He had his own celebrity death match and he had his own court TV show.
Judah: He's a judge in real life.

Ryan Hockensmith is an associate editor at ESPN The Magazine.

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