Former basketball star Royce White made waves with the Houston Rockets a few years ago by becoming perhaps the “worst first-round pick ever” according to the person that drafted him, Daryl Morey, but now the 28-year-old wants to fight inside the UFC’s octagon.
White began his MMA training about a year ago and is already the subject of a SI.com feature that was published on Monday despite White not having competed in a fight yet.
In that piece, SI.com’s Jon Wertheim even declared White to be comparable to former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar and current UFC contender Greg Hardy:
As a fighter, White draws inevitable comparisons to Lesnar: both from Minnesota, both heavyweights, both converts from another sport. But Lesnar, a former NCAA All-America wrestler, entered the UFC with a combat-sports background. The more instructive comp might be Greg Hardy: the former NFL star who was banished from the league for domestic violence and took up MMA. He’s fought five times in the UFC and done well.
Though it should also be noted that Wertheim basically admits shortly thereafter that a different path could also be on its way for the former NBA player. After all, not every professional athlete who tries to crossover from a professional sport to MMA is as successful at making the leap as Lesnar and Hardy were:
There are less successful converts, too. Johnnie Morton turned to MMA after he retired as an NFL wide receiver. In his first and only pro fight, he was not only carried out of the arena on a stretcher after a first-round KO, but he also tested positive for elevated testosterone levels.
Belief in Royce White’s MMA Career
Regardless, White seems to believe he has what it takes to become a star. The 6-foot-8, 260-pounder has always been a superb athlete, and he claims the simplicity of MMA is what draws him to the sport now that his basketball career is over.
“As a basketball player, I watched the deterioration of the competitive ethos, the erosion of the value of competition. The entertainment and the dollars [subsumed] competition on so many levels,” White said. “Mixed martial arts, it’s not ‘just business.’ It’s entertaining but not entertainment. It’s the highest level of competition. And the purest.”
Additionally, White said he believes he was “blackballed” by the NBA after his public dispute with the Rockets erupted over what White felt were inconsistencies in how mental health disorders were handled by that team.
Royce White’s NBA Career
A year after being the Rocket’s first-round pick, White was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers and waived. He last appeared in the NBA for three games during the 2013-14 season for the Sacramento Kings.
But White firmly believes he can become UFC heavyweight champion. He’s been training at the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy under the direction of MMA coach Greg Nelson and wants to become the next big thing that comes out of that gym.
“I’m coming for the UFC heavyweight crown,” White said in 2019 per TheLastRenaissance.com.
And most interestingly, White seems to believe he should get the chance to jump right into the thick of things in the UFC. Per SI.com, White and his handlers want him to face “a big-time opponent in a big-time venue with a big-time outfit, ideally the UFC” without ever having fought as a professional.
That would be quite the coup for a 0-0 fighter with no amateur combat sports credentials and an incredibly late start in perhaps the world’s most challenging sport.