“Iron” Mike Tyson, the youngest boxing champ to capture the WBC, IBF, and WBA heavyweight titles, has made headlines at various points over the course of his career; some good, some bad.

The former champ surprised the Mixed Martial Arts community this week by claiming that if the UFC had been able to pay what boxing did in the 90’s, he would have preferred the more diverse MMA to pugilism. Speaking to This is 50, Tyson said: “I want to slam them, I want to hold them, I want to choke them. That’s what you want to do anyway if you’re in a street fight right?

“You want to hit them, but you want to get them too, real good. Get them down, get on top of them. So, you have more aspects. If it’s not working this way, you can kick them in the f***ing head, you know.”

Not one to shy away from such aggressive talk, the “Baddest Man on the Planet” may be on to something: as Mixed Martial Arts has grown exponentially since he was in his prime, are we bound to start seeing more crossover athletes?

Currently in the UFC’s heavyweight foray are former NFLers, Matt “Meat Head” Mitrione and Brendan “The Hybrid” Schaub. Both have found relative success in the world’s premier MMA organization, but neither has come from a solid striking background like Tyson.

However, the rumour mill has been twirling and it’s another potential crossover athlete that has fans buzzing.

Tyrone Spong, the Dutch-Surinamese kickboxing star has, for years, spoken about a potential transition to MMA. And it seems like the 27-year-old may finally have an opponent in line for his long awaited debut… and it’s no gimme fight.

Journeyman and former UFC competitor, James McSweeney, has been linked to Spong for his first fight, according to Ray Sefo, President of World Series of Fighting. When asked by MMA Fight Corner, “I heard a rumor today that Tyrone Spong is coming to the World Series of MMA, is this true?”

Sefo replied: “That is very true.” It was Sefo who suggested McSweeney as a debut opponent.

As MMA gains more exposure, we’re bound to see more and more athletes abandoning their previously preferred sports in favour of what is quickly becoming the world’s largest stage for professional fighters. A new era may just be ushered in, as fighters like Spong will bring with them a fantastic an unmatched pedigree to the sport.

We’ve seen some of these crossover athletes crash-and-burn ala James Toney, who suffered a first round submission defeat to Randy Couture in his first and only foray into MMA. However, Toney was well past his prime when he took on “The Natural”.

Spong will be entering MMA in his physical prime and although McSweeney is no world beater, he has a solid enough grappling game to potentially give Spong some trouble. If and when these two go toe-to-toe, it’ll be a great test for both.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Loco