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Juanito Ibarra back in the UFC picture as a trainer of James Toney

By Zach Arnold | April 28, 2010

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Recently, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s former manager Juanito Ibarra did an interview with Fighthub and talked about how training was going with James “Lights Out” Toney. Toney is rumored to be facing Randy Couture this August in Boston, which will be UFC’s debut in that market. (Also touted for that card is Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard in an eliminator bout.)

Toney pleaded for months with UFC President Dana White to give him a contract and let him fight for Zuffa. White ended up giving Toney a contract and now there has been extensive discussion as to whom Toney should face first in his MMA debut. Will it be a one-and-done situation? A proposed fight against Randy Couture could be a dangerous one, given the age of both men and the physical conditioning issues that Toney has had to deal with as his career has progressed.

Ibarra, who has taken Toney under his wings for MMA training, believes that his new protege will be able to step into the Octagon with enough training and preparation to take on whatever challenge UFC throws Toney’s way.

“Well, you know, James is a born fighter. You got to know that, so his instincts are to destroy people. We’re working on a lot of technique right now. You know, of course, it’s no… it’s no genius play that the guy’s not a wrestler or a jiu-jitsu guy, but what people don’t know is he does have martial arts behind him because his manager and my partner is a master, a grandmaster. He kicked me in the head a couple of weeks ago and I was very surprised. We’re working on flexibility. Of course conditioning and wrestling and jiu-jitsu and the MMA game, I mean, he’s in MMA now. His boxing style has to change a little bit, you can’t just throw the guy in there and expect him to box with his shoulder rolls, you can’t do that in MMA, you pay, you take knees for that. So, that’s what we’re doing. We’re working on that and I got a great team behind me and you know we’re going to keep it under the radar and come what, June or July hopefully the world will get to see it.”

The appeal of Toney in UFC is pretty simple — how will someone with actual boxing skill fare in the cage against an MMA fighter that is perceived to have a weak striking game? We’ve seen plenty of sloppy C-level kickboxing fights in North American MMA and we’ve also seen some wars (such as Leonard Garcia vs. Chan Sung Jung) that were incredibly fun to watch but horribly lacking in any sort of striking technique. The obvious question going into Toney’s UFC debut — can he defend the takedown and defend off his back against a world-class wrestler? (Ask Dan Henderson about trying to defend off his back against Jake Shields.)

Ibarra has brushed aside concerns regarding Toney’s ground defense.

“If you got thrown down on the ground, taken down, how would you feel? Well, he probably feels out of the water for a minute, but he’s getting used to it. He’s getting used to it and he’s not flopping around like a fish anymore, he’s attempting things and defending things, so… Like I said it’s not the easiest thing in the world when you take a guy that’s been fighting and the success he has at that caliber, but you know what’s great about him is he’s like a sponge and he wants to keep going and going and going. That’s what I love about him. You know, we’re going to get it done.”

Toney has called anyone and everyone out in MMA. He wants to fight Randy Couture. He wants to fight any and all big names in UFC. Some people have been amused by it, some people have ignored Toney’s act, and some people are pissed off that we’re going to see UFC spend marketing capital on pushing a boxer perceived to be past-his-prime.

“It’s all about planning and executing, you know,” Mr. Ibarra remarked in the Fighthub interview. “I know the world wants to see him. Some people like it, some people don’t, that’s what the world’s about. But we’re not going to step in that Octagon until we’re ready. There ain’t no fan, there ain’t nobody going to convince us otherwise, but we’re going to have fun.”

If UFC goes ahead and books Toney against Couture, it will largely set up Toney to be one-and-done in UFC should be lose. If Couture loses, then karma will have indeed struck on the former UFC Heavyweight champion and UFC will end up with a bizarre situation with a 1-0 Toney who would likely end up facing Kimbo Slice should he beat Couture.

Mr. Ibarra says that Toney is prepared to fight anyone at any time and at any location.

“You got to think about it, man. This guy is a promotional machine, c’mon. You know. He’ll fight anybody in the world. He’s a born fighter. Now some of the team guys got to get together, we got to think what’s best for him. Everybody says the same thing – Randy this, that, c’mon. If Randy’s in the mix, he’ll be in the mix down the road. I love Randy. Randy is one my friends. he’s one of the best fighters that ever lived. So, we”ll have to wait. Like I said, it’s not my decision, it’s only my opinion. I got to prepare him and teach him, that’s my job. You know the other politics stuff and the manager stuff, I don’t manage fighters no more. But, I do advise them and his manager is my partner and we’ll let him move forward. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I give you everything I got, end of story. So, when I feel that then I know I can teach and I know they’ll listen. It’s not about money, it’s not about you know popularity, how many fighters you got, forget it. If I ain’t got the chemistry, I’m not going to be in the gym with the guy.”

For Mr. Ibarra, his role as trainer for James Toney’s MMA debut is a comeback of sorts for him in Mixed Martial Arts. A former boxing manager, he managed to ink a deal with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Jackson ended up having a meltdown after losing to Forrest Griffin by decision. Jackson would soon dump Ibarra. Ibarra went after MMA web sites that published comments made by Tito Ortiz in which Ortiz claimed that Ibarra short-changed Jackson on money.

“Remember you guys, all you guys out there in the world, remember what God says, that the truth lasts forever and lies only last for a moment. Remember that, and put your heart into people and be positive. Don’t be negative.”

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

One Response to “Juanito Ibarra back in the UFC picture as a trainer of James Toney”

  1. Fluyid says:

    Doesn’t flop around like a fish anymore? How long have Toney and Ibarra been together? If he has stopped flopping around like a fish on the ground it was only relatively recently, since they haven’t been together that long.

    Toney is probably one and done. He’ll be absolutely insufferable if he wins, though. Plus, Kimbo may lose next weekend.

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