Rahman, who knocked out Lennox Lewis in 2001 to win the linear heavyweight title, has his heart set on a mixed marital arts career, said Sandro Gelke, who represents him. Now living in Las Vegas, Rahman, 45-7 (36 KO), is coming off a one-sided, Dec. 13 seventh-round stoppage at the hands of IBF/WBO champ Wladimir Klitschko.
In news sure to perk up the ears of both boxing and MMA fans alike, “The Rock,” whose boxing career was defined by some of the strangest twists of fate this side of Riddick Bowe, wants to step into the new sport. And fast.
Gelke said that the 36-year-old Rahman is “quite serious about fighting in MMA” and they are currently in negotiations with several promotions, hoping to line up a debut fight sometime in the next 2-3 months. The ex-champ -- whose boxing career went south after losing a rematch to Lennox Lewis -- built a reputation on a big right hand in the sweet science, though he was also inconsistent and at times seemed to lack the impetus to get in shape.
“He thought it would be an interesting thing. He’s seen Kimbo Slice fight on TV, and he’s like, ‘I’d like to fight some of these guys,’” said Gelke.
Rahman was not initially available for comment.
Rahman, who has zero grappling background, last scored a takedown while scuffling with Lewis on the ESPN set while promoting their November 2001 rematch. Gelke said that his client plans to keep his boxing career going as well, but has yet to locate an MMA-based gym. But they’re looking around, he added.
“He hasn’t wrestled. He was actually quite a streetfighter (in Baltimore) so people said he should box,” Gelke said of Rahman, who took up boxing at the relatively late age of 20. “He’s like Quinton (Jackson) and Kimbo in that sense. We’re talking to quite a few different organizations, from small promotions up to the big ones. We’re looking to fight name fighters like Kimbo, Butterbean [Eric Esch], James Thompson, someone to bring a name to the table.”
There’s no long-term plan in place, Gelke added, as Rahman gets his feet wet in MMA -- they’re not making noise about challenging the top dogs just yet.
“We’re just taking it one fight at a time and see what comes to us,” he said. “We want to get a few smaller fights under our belts before we take on a Lesnar or Fedor or someone like that. There’s nothing solid right now. But we’re already talking with promoters about shows in April or May.”
Gelke said that he knows how vexing the transition will be given the added combative aspects of MMA. Other boxers such as Butterbean and Ray Mercer found out the hard way, along with a spate of early-day MMA competitors; but those were far less accomplished boxers than Rahman. The question long-asked by fans of both sports could get at least a quasi-relevant answer with Rahman’s journey that those other entries never really supplied -- what would happen if a world-class boxer with MMA training entered the sport? Shannon Briggs’ flirtation with it never materialized, but the reports out of American Top Team were certainly encouraging. It’s still a question that elicits heated debate from virtually any combat sports fan you ask.
“I understand how difficult it is,” Gelke said. “That’s why I’m looking to not put him in with any big grapplers at first. I don’t think Rock really understands how hard it will be to fight these guys with a grappling and wrestling background. So I’m looking to put him in with someone like Tank Abbott, or James Thompson.”
Rahman’s weight fluctuated greatly during the latter half of his boxing career. Best suited in the mid 230-pound range, he ballooned up in the 250s during a tour of tune-ups in recent years, and was a lackluster 253.5 prior to being dismantled by Klitschko in December.
“I’m talking to a Strikeforce, [a] lot of big promotions,” he said. “Some in Japan, like Sengoku and Dream. Hasim would love to fight over in Japan. Also some smaller promotions, like Wargods. I’m trying to get him into an MMA gym, work with some top trainers, there are some great gyms out here in Vegas. So that’s still kind of a work in progress. I think he’s waiting to see that I have a fight set. Then he can focus on training.”
Along with Marcus Davis, Chris Lytle is one of the most accomplished MMA fighters with a pro boxing career under his belt, going 13-7-1 (7 KO) in the squared circle. Better known in MMA as a UFC regular, Lytle gave his take on what Rahman will face.