Freak Show: Hong Man Choi vs Jose Canseco

On May 26, 2009, one of the more bizarre MMA fights of all time took place in Japan. The contest featured champion sumo wrestler and kick-boxer Hong Man Choi taking on former Major League Baseball player and admitted steroid user Jose Canseco. The match seemed quite absurd from the beginning, since Canseco had no training as a martial artist and was also almost a foot shorter and some eighty pounds lighter than Hong Man Choi. Damon Feldman, who founded the Celebrity Boxing Federation, stated that Canseco was doing this for money and he seemed willing to fight just about anyone.

Canseco had been struggling financially in recent years; he had had his home foreclosed and then was caught smuggling an illegal female fertility drug across the U.S.-Mexico border. The bout would seem a quick way to make some cash, which Canseco appeared to be in need of at the time. However, facing the seven-foot-two, three hundred and thirty pound Choi certainly could not seem like a great idea from a health standpoint.

Canseco entered the ring hoisting a baseball bat over his head while his girlfriend threw out baseballs into the audience. Canseco very well may have wished that he had held onto that bat once the fight began. Choi knocked Canseco back with an explosive punch early in the first round, which was scheduled for ten minutes under Pride rules. Canseco then attempted to avoid Choi as he danced around the ring in a somewhat nervous fashion. This strategy did not work so well either — Canseco appeared to twist his knee while maneuvering around the ring.

As Choi moved in, Canseco threw a weak kick, which left him open to Choi’s advance. Choi was then able to jump on Canseco and smash him to the floor before jumping on top of him. The ref then grabbed Choi, prying him off of Canseco before any major damage was done. The fight was stopped at 8:42 of the first and only round. Canseco lay on the canvas looking more exhausted than hurt. One of the strangest bouts in MMA history had come to an abrupt end. Luckily for Canseco, he was able to escape the bout without serious injury.

Many people felt Canseco was crazy to take on such a huge physical specimen in Choi — not to mention an accomplished professional fighter. There was certainly much potential for Canseco to suffer serious injury fighting against his massive opponent. As it turned out, Canseco was able to walk away with some cash and only suffered some mild embarrassment — something the former AL MVP must have been used to by this point in his turbulent life.

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