On a recent episode of UFC Tonight, boxing legend Mike Tyson made an appearance to discuss his thoughts on the early days of the UFC.
“Iron” Mike was near the peak of his career prior to a prison conviction in 1991. Due to this, he wouldn’t have been available to fight in 1993, when UFC 1 occurred, but the thought of a world class athlete like Tyson competing in the UFC’s early, no holds barred days is still an intriguing concept.
Aside from Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock, the first UFC event had a distinct lack of “top-tier” martial arts talent; at least, no one anywhere near the level of renown that Mike Tyson held at the time.
Even so, Tyson believes that he would’ve had no chance against tournament winner Royce Gracie, as at the time, he was completely unaware of the ground game.
“Well, in ’93, I was in prison, so there would not have been a fight,” Tyson said. “But there is no way I would have won. I had no idea what was going on with that type of fighting and would’ve been taken by surprise. I would have had to train in that particular art of fighting for that to happen. That’s a particular art. You are not going to go in there with your just your hands, you need to have a great ground game as well. You also need a great wrestling game to be successful. You have to have both skills, wrestling and boxing. That’s the truth.”
That’s a very realistic assessment by Tyson (and a surprisingly modest one at that). Still, I don’t think Shamrock or Gracie had ever taken a punch like Iron Mike could throw. In an alternate history, it would’ve been an extremely interesting fight to say the least.
In a fun bit of trivia, Royce Gracie actually challenged Tyson in 1997. At the time, Tyson was making around $20 million a fight though, and likely couldn’t be bothered to respond.