Justin Bieber wants to fight Tom Cruise. Or, at least that was the “joke” from the pop star … or maybe it wasn’t a joke.
You can track the course of the story through a series of TMZ headlines:
“JUSTIN BIEBER I’LL WHOOP TOM CRUISE’S ASS!!!”
“JUSTIN BIEBER TOM CRUISE CHALLENGE WASN’T REAL … If It Was, I’d Be Toast!!!”
“JUSTIN BIEBER AGREES TO UFC FIGHT WITH TOM CRUISE … During Secret Phone Call”
The bizarre story started, then stopped before starting again with UFC president Dana White confirming he had engaged in talks to make the fight happen during a recent Q&A.
“It is true,” White said. “As crazy as that sounds, that is true. … I don’t want to use any names, but I was at home on a Sunday, and I got a call with two big guys on the phone. They were telling me this could possibly happen and this could be real. I’m like, there’s no way that this is really going to happen. But if it does, call me back. I’m in.”
His reasoning for going along with trying to make the fight is clear:
“Listen, if I can make that fight, I’d be all over that fight. It’d be the biggest pay-per-view in the history of pay-per-view.”
While the money it would take to make the fight happen seems unrealistic at best, it wouldn’t be the UFC’s first dance with celebrities from outside the world of MMA.
Hell, once upon a time, the UFC almost hosted Wesley Snipes vs. Jean-Claude Van Damme — which then turned into almost hosting Wesley Snipes vs. Joe Rogan.
But let’s not talk about the almost fights, let’s talk about the ones that did happen.
At UFC 118 in August 2010, UFC great Randy Couture faced off with former three-division champion boxer James Toney.
Toney was years past his prime and weighed in at an unimpressive 237 pounds, tying the highest he’d ever weighed in for his boxing career to that point.
The lead up to the fight saw Toney attempt to prove he’d taken to MMA like a fish to water. He welcomed the former Olympic wrestling alternate to try to take him down, suggesting it would be a “very short night” for Couture should he attempt to shoot for a takedown.
In reality, it was a short night for Couture, just not the way Toney had wanted. It took all of 15 seconds for Couture to score a takedown, and from there he methodically and easily roughed Toney up with punches before sinking a choke to score the submission just over three minutes after the fight began.
The most successful “outsider” on this list is also an imposing athletic freak.
Brock Lesnar hopped from the WWE to trying his hand at NFL football before barely missing making the Minnesota Vikings despite next to no football experience. When football didn’t work out, Lesnar decided to hop in the Octagon,
Well, first, Lesnar fought in K-1 Heroes where he was to fight 7’2” kickboxer Hong Man Choi but ended up fighting former Olympic judo silver medalist Min Soo Kim.
After the Kim fight, Lesnar signed with the UFC and three fights later defeated Randy Couture at UFC 91 to become UFC heavyweight champion. He would defend the title twice and exit the promotion after two losses, with his final stretch in the UFC being marred by health problems due to diverticulitis.
Lesnar returned to the Octagon at UFC 200, defeating Mark Hunt only to fail multiple drug tests. The victory was overturned.
Toney came from a legit fighting background and had proven himself a combat sport champion in boxing. Lesnar had a legitimate high-level championship amateur wrestling background.
The same could not be said for Phil “CM Punk” Brooks.
A former superstar wrestler in WWE, Punk had a falling out with the sports entertainment giant and decided he wanted to try his hand at mixed martial arts.
Punk had trained jiu jitsu for several years, but with his wrestling career his time to train was understandably limited. Now focused in on becoming a fighter, Punk inked a deal with the UFC in December 2014.
He would take almost two years to train before making his debut against Mickey Gall at UFC 203. Gall had won his opportunity to fight Punk by beating Mike Jackson (a then 0-0 fighter).
It took Gall 2:14 to submit Punk in a fight eerily similar to Toney vs. Couture. Gall scored a takedown in 15 seconds, dominated on the ground and finished with a choke.
Punk didn’t hang up the gloves, however, and the UFC put him in the cage with Jackson — the man Gall beat to earn his shot at the former wrestler — at UFC 225.
Jackson held an 0-1 record, as did Punk. Jackson had also been submitted by Gall in his lone loss, but had only lasted 45 seconds.
Jackson was the lowest tier opponent the UFC could possibly accept putting in the Octagon … except for Punk.
Punk had nothing for Jackson and took a beating over three rounds en route to losing a unanimous decision.
Jackson was actually criticized by White for not finishing Punk, whose best attribute appeared to be his toughness.
Punk has now found a much more appropriate place in the MMA landscape, working as a commentator for UFC affiliate promotion Cage Fury Fighting Championships.
So, the UFC has seen the occasional mess when someone outside the world of mixed martial arts steps in the Octagon.
Whether that means we’d ever actually see Tom Cruise and Justin Bieber battling it out in the cage? Who knows.
…but almost certainly not.