“This is my first time in London, and I’m looking forward to sharing time with the fans over there.”
It may be a sign of the times or possibly a change in tide, but whatever it is, one of boxing’s biggest superstars will be in the news this weekend, and not in the boxing ring, but at the UFC Fan Expo in London.
Yet as far as WBA junior middleweight champion Miguel Cotto is concerned, his visit to England isn’t about a fight between the sweet science and MMA, it’s about meeting up with his friends Kurt Pellegrino and Miguel Torres and meeting fans who don’t care about the rules of particular combat sports; they just love to watch fights.
“This is my first time in London,” said Cotto, “and I’m looking forward to sharing time with the fans over there.”
Tickets have been selling at a brisk pace for Friday and Saturday’s Expo at Earls Court Exhibition Centre, and that’s not a surprise, considering that the UK’s first UFC Fan Expo will see the likes of Randy Couture, Frankie Edgar, Rashad Evans, Wanderlei Silva, Rich Franklin, Jon Jones, and Gray Maynard making appearances. But for Ecko Unlimited, which will have Cotto, Pellegrino, and Torres signing autographs this weekend, it’s also an opportunity to bring fans of all combat sports together.
“They’re all huge fight fans in England,” said Eric Samson, MMA Brand Manager for Ecko. “One of the things we’re trying to do is really say yeah, there’s this contingent of people saying ‘we’re purists, we’re boxing fans,’ and things like that, but by taking such a credible fighter like Miguel Cotto, we’re hoping to break down those walls and say, hey, this might be new relative to boxing, but it’s not bad, it’s good, and true boxing greats are embracing MMA.”
Puerto Rico’s Cotto, who has also owned titles at 140 and 147 pounds before defeating Yuri Foreman at Yankee Stadium in June for the junior middleweight strap, has even gone a step further, training with both Pellegrino and Torres in New Jersey earlier this year, and the three developed a tight bond.
“I went there with Pellegrino and Torres and I think the chemistry we created in Jersey was the key factor to have the relationship we have right now,” said Cotto. “We can use our boxing skills in the ring, and they can mix in other styles of fighting, but I learned a lot when I trained with those guys in Jersey.”
It went both ways, as Pellegrino explains.
“To work with a world-class boxer was a great time, and Miguel Cotto’s the man,” said the lightweight contender. “He was very gentle and he didn’t break my ribs, which I appreciated very much. (Laughs) But I taught him how to wrestle, and he’s a world-class athlete that learned a duck under after I showed him two times.”
Don’t expect to see the Boricua Bomber in the Octagon anytime soon though.
“No, I don’t think so,” he smiles. “I’m in my business of boxing, and I don’t think I’m gonna be an MMA fighter.”
But like most people who watch a mixed martial arts event, all it takes is one dose, and then you’re a fan for life. Count Miguel Cotto in that group.
“He loved the energy and the event and has always been so willing to participate and help and bring over the boxing fans to MMA,” said Samson, whose company had Cotto cageside for Torres’ March WEC bout against Joseph Benavidez.
“I enjoy watching the events,” adds Cotto. “The toughness of the sport is the best part of MMA.”